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The Winner Takes it All, The Loser Has to Fall

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Hello! 

It’s nice to meet you! My name is Rain, and I am the author of this story. This is my first story on AO3, so any constructive criticism is welcome~

Some info about me: 

My name is Rain, and I go by she/them pronouns! I main Aloy and Xinyan in Genshin, and I want to try Horizon Zero Dawn when I can afford it (A Playstation is expensive, okay?). 

 

And now, some important things to know. 

  • I don’t have an update schedule, I update when I am satisfied with the chapter. 
  • This story is inspired by Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a few Genshin Idol AU fanfics on AO3, a few random books I read, Komi Can’t Communicate and some IRL experiences (IRL experiences for comedy, mainly.)
  • There are going to be a few sensitive topics in the story, so I will put trigger warnings. Also, please check the tags! However, there will be no character death. This story is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed. 
  • Aloy’s character might be OOC, as I have not played HDZ before, and only know her from Genshin (Primarily her Character Stories and Voice-lines). There might be a few things that may be inaccurate, so I deeply apologise. 
  • This is my first time posting on AO3, so there might be some issues like misplaced chapters. Please bear with me!

 

And finally, please enjoy the story! 

 

[AS OF 13, DECEMBER, 2021]
Unfortunately, I'm putting the story on hiatus as I'm burnt out from writing it. I'll be back in January or something. Thanks for reading!

[AS OF 23, DECEMBER, 2021]
I'm back, baby!!! Only thing is that I won't be updating as frequently, sorry about that ;w;

[AS OF 19, JANUARY, 2022] 
The story is now complete. Thank you for reading! I will link the sequel once it's ready. Again, thank you for your support!

[AS OF 1, APRIL, 2022]
This is not an April Fools joke, but I WAS A DUM DUM AND FORGOT TO LINK THE SEQUEL! 
Here it is: https://archiveofourown.org/works/36788557?view_full_work=true

Chapter Text

“And now, please welcome...4NEMO!!!!!” 

The four idols stand on-stage in stunning suits. The smoke (actually dry ice) floated on stage like wispy clouds. Lightsticks in bright cyan light lit up the dark ocean called the audience. As the backing track started to play, the idols started to sing and dance. To some, it may be a magical thing. Like a fairy tale coming to life, a dream spun into reality. 

“Nice to see you!” a blonde-haired boy greeted the audience. “I’m Aether!” 

“I’m Venti!” a younger boy with teal braids cheered.

“I’m Xiao.” a tough-looking man with teal ends said.

“And my name is Kazuha!” a young man with white hair and a red streak smiled. 

“WE ARE...4NEMO!!!” 

 

“So, what was stolen?” Officer Barbara asked a distraught shopkeeper. 

It just so happened that an electronics store was robbed on the night of the concert. Shattered glass reflected the warm, yet cold November sunlight. The shop was in complete disarray with phone cases scattered on the floor, display PC screens smashed...it was as if a stampede occurred in the store. 

“A bunch of phones, filming equipment...mainly filming equipment.” the shopkeeper replied, “Whoever did this took all of the cameras, mics and Go-Pros and left the whole shop like this.” 

“Well, you don’t have to fear!” Xinyan laughed, walking into the store. “One of my little pranks are going to pay off right now.” 

Xinyan ran to one of the shelves and lifted an empty tissue box off it. She popped the plastic box open, revealing a hidden CCTV camera. 

“You implanted a CCTV here?!” the shopkeeper gasped. 

“Yes, I did! And I knew this spare body-cam would come in handy.” Xinyan replied, plugging in the camera onto one of the spare TVs. 

There, they saw a mysterious figure in black with a group of acomplicies, destroying the whole store like it was a normal Tuesday. The hood of one of the robbers’ fell off, and that was when Xinyan, that one kid you would never suspect was with the police, paused the video.

“Let’s see. Young girl around five to ten years of age. Grey hair, purple eyes…” Barbara examined. She pulled out a walkie-talkie. “Officer Pegg, all units please be on the lookout for a young girl, five to ten years of age, who has short, messy grey hair and purple eyes.” 

As Barbara stored the walkie-talkie, the shopkeeper thanked her. 

“Xinyan, I never knew you were deployed here!” Barbara said. “I didn’t even believe you were an intern, too!” 

“Well, I had to.” Xinyan replied in her thick accent, “Music wasn’t really working out for me, so I settled on the next best option.” 

Before the two of them stepped out of the store, the shopkeeper stopped them. “Wait, Officer…”    

“It’s Xinyan Lin. And I’m an Intern.” Xinyan introduced. 

“Did...did you plant that camera before you became a cop?” the shopkeeper stammered. 

Xinyan nodded. “I was just bored. It later turned out that it captured those crooks.” 

“And potentially solved the case!” Barbara laughed. 

Suddenly, Xinyan’s walkie-talkie vibrated. 

“Officer Lin. 69th Precinct.” Xinyan said, as the two other people in the room looked on. 

“Xinyan! Get back to HQ now. The Chief is calling. Emergency meeting!” a light, shy-sounding wail yelled. 

“Roger that.” Barbara replied. She walked out of the store and instructed the remaining officers to search for the thieves and to secure the premises. Xinyan followed after her, like a cat trailing its master. 

The two of them sped off to the headquarters of the 69th Precinct of the New Teyvat Police Force, a shoplot in the streets of New Mondstadt. It sat next to a General Goods Store, the Adventurers’ Guild, just across the street. Good Hunter was also nearby, with a WanminMart Mini just below HQ. The two cops ran through the revolving glass door, got on a staff-only elevator to the third floor, where their office was. It was the same floor where the meeting room was, and where a little surprise awaited them.

Upon entering the office and passing the little wooden gate, a shy-looking Officer ran over to them. 

“Barbara! Xinyan! You guys are back!” the Officer gasped. She had wide glasses and long green hair she’d tied back in a ponytail. She also had a pair of animal-like ears that would twitch whenever she was nervous or excited. 

“Sucrose? What’s going on?” Xinyan asked. 

“Right on time.” 

As the girls craned their necks, they spotted the Chief Officer of the Precinct, Eula Lawrence. She stood tall and strong in her uniform and neat icy-blue hair and piercing stare. 

“Chief!” Xinyan said, snapping to attention. “What is going on?” 

“Xin, I really hope she didn’t find the mouldy sandwich in my drawer…” Sucrose whispered. 

“Why do you have a sandwich in your drawer?!” Barbara hissed.

“Ahem.” the Chief announced. The three girls shut up. She looked behind her. “Aloy? You can come out now.” 

Aloy? The officers thought. 

“Wait, wait, wait!” Barbara stammered. “We have a new intern?!” 

“Am I getting fired?!” Sucrose wailed. 

“No, no! Calm down. Aloy is going to be joining the precinct today as an intern, and Varka instructed me to pair her with you three. Especially since you three are from the same high school.” 

Xinyan was stunned. 

“Are you kidding me?! We’ve always been the OG! The best intern team in the 69th Precinct! We solved the most crimes and stopped the most crooks!” Xinyan yelled. 

“Xinyan…” Sucrose muttered. 

“Aloy Nora!” Eula yelled. “Come out this instant!” 

“You called?” 

Barbara was left slack-jawed. In front of her stood a young lady with ginger hair and a brown hoodie. 

“Aloy, you will be working with them from now on.” Eula introduced. 

“Are you sure about this?!” Xinyan yelled. “We’re used to being a team of three!” 

“And I’m used to going solo!” the new intern retorted. 

“Just because you solved a murder back in Liyue yourself doesn’t mean you can go solo forever.” 

The group of cops stared at the new girl. The rattle of ringing phones and the light murmur of cops answering calls or discussing cases faded into white noise. 

“Wait, it’s THAT Aloy?!” Barbara gasped. “The one who solved the murder of Wuwang Hill?!” 

“Now I take back any complaints about a new teammate!” Xinyan cheered. “She’s super cool--” 

“Anyways, I shall leave you guys here. If you have any issues, don’t call me.” Eula walked back to her office and closed the door. The four girls were left standing there. 

“So...it’s nice to meet you. I’m Xinyan Lin.” Xinyan introduced. “The girl with the twindrills is Barbara Pegg and the shy one is Sucrose Ampulla! Oh, and Sucrose goes by she/them and Barbara and I are on internship.” 

Aloy, the new member of the team, hesitated. “I’m Aloy of the Nora Tribe, and I’m also on internship. But I go by Aloy Nora because my name has to fit on this thing called an IC...What is it, anyways?” 

“Don’t lose it, you need it to confirm your identity.” Xinyan, Barbara and Sucrose stated blankly. 

“Oh, and fun fact, you can get arrested for losing it.” Xinyan continued.

“Okay…” Aloy rapidly checked her pockets and wallet. “It’s there, don’t worry.” 

The other three girls sighed in relief.  

 

Later that afternoon…

“So, guess what.” Xinyan asked, approaching Barbara and Aloy, who were filing reports like a normal Tuesday. 

“You found the thief?” Barbara guessed. 

“Not just that, but…” 

Xinyan showed her phone screen to the girls. “L/YUE has a new single!” 

“Wait, WHAT?!” Sucrose leapt out of her chair and ran towards Xinyan. “Finally! Keqing released her cover of VIOLET!” 

“The song sung by that girl that has a large forehead?” Aloy guessed. 

“I can literally take a sharpie and play tic-tac-toe on your forehead.” Barbara threatened. 

“Can we play it? Can we play it?!” Sucrose begged. 

“Um, 4NEMO is better.” Barbara snapped. “They have hot boys and cool voices.” 

“No, L/YUE is pure talent! And they sound like angels!” Sucrose wailed. 

As the two of them argued on which was the better group, Xinyan and Aloy watched from afar. 

“So...I listen to both bands. What about you?” Xinyan asked. 

Aloy thought for a few seconds. “I don’t listen to them.” 

“Oh.” Xinyan replied. “Who do you listen to, then?” 

“Mainly music from video games.” Aloy admitted. 

“Nice taste. Um, should we be back on…” Xinyan slapped the paper file on the table. “GIRLS! The case???” 

“Oh, yeah!” Sucrose remembered. “The kid that robbed the store.” 

“Apparently, the kid is fifteen. Fifteen! And she’s that short.” Xinyan reported.

“Any known motive?” Barbara asked. 

“She was promised a growth serum by a crime boss. Had to break the truth to her. Those serums killed a person once.” Xinyan sighed. “She’s probably not eating enough meat or shellfish.” 

“I trust whatever’s been stolen has been returned to their rightful owners?” 

Everyone stared at Aloy. For a second, it grew so quiet between them, you could hear a pin drop.

“She really means business…” Sucrose whispered to Barbara. 

“Y-yes! The stolen property has been returned to the shop.” Xinyan replied. 

“Good.” Aloy replied. “Since there was a teenager involved, I just hope the courts are kind to her.” 

“Wait, how did you know about…” Sucrose asked.

Aloy shrugged. “I was an intern in another precinct before I joined this one and I read the whole law just in case.” 

“So you got promoted.” Barbara guessed. 

“No. I just have the skills.” 

“Anyways!” Xinyan laughed. “Should we get lunch?” 

“We packed.” Sucrose stated. “Also, I have a sandwich.” 

“I have some curry from Good Hunter!” Barbara cheered, running to the pantry. 

“I got some energy bars.” Xinyan boasted, “I have some spares if you want.” 

“What’s lunch?” Aloy asked. 

The three interns stared at her, dumbfounded. 

“You what?” Barbara asked. 

Xinyan tossed an energy bar towards Aloy. 

“You better eat, swear to heck.” Xinyan snapped. “This isn’t an order, it’s a threat. Thank me later!” 

Chapter Text

“One, two, three, four.” L/YUE’s dance instructor, Rosaria, instructed. The group was choreographing a dance for one of their newest songs, Peko-Peko Power. As the members moved to the beat, something, or someone, fell.

“What the…” Yanfei muttered. 

“Damnit, Ganyu! We’ve gone over it so many times. Why do you keep falling on your face!?” Rosaria, L/YUE’s dance instructor, yelled. 

Ganyu sheepishly looked at her feet, her blue hair covering her face like a veil. The other members of L/YUE looked upon her, snickers and whispers filling the air. 

“I’m so--” 

“Sorry won’t do anything unless you actually improve!” Rosaria turned back to the other members of L/YUE. “Everyone, positions and from the top!” 

The vibrant music poured from the speakers, the powerful beat pounding like a heartbeat. Hu Tao, Keqing and Yanfei flawlessly pulled it off, but Ganyu had to time herself. 

One, two, three, one, two, three. Swing your arms up high, and twirl--

And Ganyu bumped into Keqing. 

“GANYU!” Keqing yelled. 

Ganyu gasped in shock. “I’m sorry! I was--” 

“Ganyu, why don’t you get some glasses or clip your hair up?!” Rosaria snapped. 

“Ma’am, I--” 

“That’s enough for today. I expect to see you tomorrow evening for more practice. You better get those moves right, you coco-goat!” 

As she stormed out of the room, the other members of L/YUE filed out of the practice room, leaving Ganyu alone with her thoughts and water bottle. The malicious whispers of her group mates disappeared along with them. 

It always happens. 

It always came this way for her. 

Picking herself up, she decided to dance. 

One, two, three. One, two three. Swing your arms high, and twirl to the left.  

Even if Ganyu was alone, she could hear her group mates singing. Remembering the melody in her head, she pulled off every move of the dance. 

Bam, bam, crash. Bam, bam crash. Slide to the left, then right. And the--

And then, Ganyu tumbled to the ground again. 

Not again. Not again!

Ganyu got back up, trying again. But she tumbled to the floor, like a kite losing its wind.

Over

And

Over

Again. 

Picking herself up again, she tried endlessly to perfect the rhythm. The dance. The tempo. But it was that one move that always caused her to tumble. Even if she kept her eyes open, she still fell. 

It reminded her of a song she once listened to. It was from a singer that had given her voice up long ago, like a battered old toy left to rest in the toybox. 

But even so, she’d forgotten what the toy looked like, and how the singer used to play with it. Hell, she’d forgotten why the singer had loved it.

So picking herself back up, she decided to try again. 

 

“Wait, where’s Ganyu?” Hu Tao asked, worried. 

“Ah, I have no idea. I hope she jumped out one of the windows in the practice room.” Yanfei laughed. “She’s worthless anyways.” 

“That idiot keeps bumping into me!” Keqing complained. “I wish they accepted that other girl.” 

“Which other girl?” Hu Tao asked, out of curiosity. As the youngest member of L/YUE, she was constantly inquisitive and cheerful, unlike the more serious members of the group which were mostly dignified, prim and proper. 

“Lumine. Aether’s little sister.” Yanfei replied. “She is SO much more talented than Ganyu. The only reason why Lumine isn’t here is because she chose not to.” 

“Ha! That was the biggest mistake she’s made for L/YUE.” Keqing agreed. “Honestly, I wouldn’t even cry if Ganyu choked on Qingxin petals. She would deserve it, after all.” 

Hu Tao was visibly disturbed. She never stood for any type of bullying. And she would’ve told the manager, Ningguang, if Keqing wasn’t her best friend. And if Keqing wasn’t manipulative as hell. 

“Hey, Walnut. You better not tell Ning about any of this.” Keqing said. 

“Oh! I-um…” Hu Tao stuttered. 

“If you tell Ningguang about this, we’ll make you suffer like how we made Ganyu suffer.” Yanfei threatened. 

The air tensed up, as the threat hung in the balance.

“...I won’t tell anyone.” Hu Tao promised, forcing her voice to comply. She really hated to do this, but now, having to stay silent so she wouldn’t get hurt? She really, really hated it. She wanted to throw up; it was that sickening to her. 

“Good.” Keqing smiled evilly, like an evil queen. “Anyways, let’s discuss the lyric placement…” 

 

Meanwhile, in the streets of New Mondstadt…

“Aloy, you live here?” Barbara asked, as she and the three other girls climbed up a dimly-lit flight of stairs. 

“Yep. This was the only apartment I could afford.” Aloy replied. 

The group halted at the front door. The ginger-haired girl unlocked the door, and stepped inside. Xinyan and Sucrose expected a messy apartment, but instead, the studio apartment was almost spotless! 

The kitchen was well-stocked and neat, her desk was organised with the gaming chair pushed in, and the TV bench had a 64-inch TV, a PlayStation 5 and a good amount of video game figurines and Nendodroids. The soft, pale orange light filled the room like the sunrise, pale white curtains blocking the large window wall and the glass door to the balcony. A simple wardrobe sat next to the TV, filled with clothes and random things Aloy had brought from Meridian. It was a wonder how a dingy apartment could be turned into a cozy abode. 

“Well, welcome to my apartment.” Aloy introduced. “The only reason why it’s so neat is because I got IKEA to help me with all this.” 

“It’s beautiful.” Barbara gasped, taking in the apartment’s cosy yet sleek aesthetic. 

“You don’t have a bed?” Xinyan asked, looking around. 

“Um, I think Aloy sleeps on the couch…” Sucrose muttered, pointing to the grey couch near the TV, AKA the only thing that was messy in the whole house. A blanket was messily thrown over the back of the sofa with a pillow in a blue pillowcase oddly placed and a few disarranged stuffed toys here and there. 

“So anyways!” Barbara said. “You have a nice place.” 

“Thanks. Again, I got IKEA to help out.” Aloy replied. “So, do you guys stay nearby or…” 

“Me and Barbara live in another apartment block across the street.” Sucrose replied. “Xinyan lived in Liyue before she had to transfer to the nearby high school.” 

“And due to that, it so happens we are in the same apartment.” Xinyan craned her neck towards Aloy, who was fiddling with a bag of Skittles. 

“That’s nice.” Aloy replied. “You can borrow my PS5 if you want to.” 

“Oh, thanks! I’ve always wanted to try out a game on the PS5.” Xinyan replied, her face lighting up. She sprinted over to the couch. “What games do you have?” 

“Oh, not much. Just the free games and Genshin Impact.” Aloy replied, picking up one of the Dualsense controllers neatly placed on the controller charger/holder. “Also,” Aloy glared at Xinyan. “Do not mess with my HDZ save file. If not, I will personally kill you.” 

“Do you even have time for games?!” Sucrose gasped. 

Without anyone looking, Xinyan sneakily turned on the TV and the PS5. Upon the console powering on, Xinyan ran Horizon Zero Dawn, navigated through the menu...

“I mean, I’m on an internship.” Aloy shrugged, “What did you--” 

“YOU CLEARED THE WHOLE GAME?! WITH THE FROZEN WILDS DLC?!?!” Xinyan yelled, “Aloy, you really need to touch grass!” 

“Please don’t tell me you finished the whole game in three days.” Barbara facepalmed. 

“I didn’t. I spread it through two weeks, taking a one-day break since I slept the whole day after I watched...that cutscene.” Aloy admitted. “But I lived off Doritos and energy drinks for a bit.” 

“Well…” 

Everyone looked at Sucrose, who was holding her phone. 

“Sucrose?” Barbara asked. “What is it?” 

“Well, it would make sense for Aloy to complete the game within two weeks, assuming she put in an average of five and a half hours into gametime, counting out free-world roaming and possibly randomly fighting mobs you encounter in the open world.” Sucrose explained, pushing her glasses up. “Additionally, since she has the complete edition of the game, the fact that she cleared it in two weeks amazes me. I had to blow out around a whole month of gametime on average to finish the original since I’m working full-time!” 

“Two types of people, two types of people.” Barbara replied, deadpan. 

Chapter Text

The very next day, Liyue Harbour...

“KAzuha!” 

Kazuha turned to see Aether, who was running towards him with a water bottle in hand.

“Oh, hey Aether.” Kazuha took the water bottle. “Thanks a ton for the water.” 

“No problem!” Aether replied, a small chuckle in his voice. 

Venti placed their hand on Aether’s shoulder. “So, Aether! How’s the filming going?” 

Aether and Xiao were filming a police comedy that was planned to air in December, with the other members of 4NEMO also being in the show, but their roles weren’t as prominent. It was in the early afternoon, at the set where the show was going to be filmed. Today, they were on a street in Liyue, filming a scene when Xiao, or in the show, Alatus, was chasing a thief who stole a huge wad of money. The Mora in the scene was obviously fake, but it nearly caused the intervention of a few cops stationed on the streets that day. The end of the year was very busy, with songs to record, dances to choreograph, shows to film...it seemed like work would never end. But some fans of 4NEMO were there, cheering on the idols with meticulously-made cardboard signs and the signature cyan lightsticks. 

“Everyone, we greatly appreciate your support!” Kazuha said to the crowd, as the camera crew prepared to roll again. “However, we are going to roll now, so please stand back and be careful!” 

“Anything for our Kazuha!” 

“Kazu-Kazu! Can I have your autograph?” 

“Where do I put this sign?” 

“Everyone, calm down! We can have autographs later. But we need to film now. Please be careful!” Aether yelled from the side of the street. 

 

“Girls!” Barbara shrieked, holding up her phone. “4NEMO is filming on the streets of Liyue!” 

“So what?” Sucrose huffed. “L/YUE is better! They’re practicing their dances.” 

Barbara swooned, “I just wanna be there to watch them act, I want to get there to cheer them on...I could even get their autographs!” 

“Um, I think we should be concerned for the safety of the talents.” Aloy said. “There’s a crowd there. And the camera equipment can topple and hurt someone.” 

“I mean, she has a point.” Xinyan agreed, “I have the feeling we should be there so we can keep the crowd safe.” 

“Hey, there are cops in Liyue!” Barbara retorted. “We can just go there as spectators.” 

“What if the fans break the defences?” Aloy replied, standing up as her chair let out an ear-piercing shriek. “What if someone gets hurt? What if there aren’t any cops on the streets?! The duty of a police officer, intern or not, is to ensure the safety of the people, not to fangirl over a boy band!” 

“Yo, Aloy, I see your point but you’ve got to calm down. ” Xinyan awkwardly laughed. 

“I agree with Aloy though. The police in Liyue are pretty lax since no-one dares to break the law there.” Sucrose admitted, standing up. 

Barbara was fuming. “But--”

“Officer Nora!” 

Chief Officer Eula stood in the doorway to her office. She looked like the Discipline Teacher about to scold another unruly child for breaking the rules. Aloy’s heart dropped. Xinyan froze up. Barbara pouted like an angry child. The whole room froze in place, like someone pulled up the pause menu in a video game. As Aloy walked over to the Chief’s office, everyone stared at her as if she’d committed a horrible crime, and she was walked off to get executed. As the door slammed shut, the office returned to what it once was. 

“Damnit, Barbara!” Xinyan hissed. “Now Aloy’s in hot water.” 

“She’s definitely in the doghouse…” Sucrose whispered timidly. “But I agree with her. Barbara has very skewed priorities.” 

“I--” Barbara stammered. 

“Honestly, how are you even an intern? Just for good behaviour and a clean criminal record?” Xinyan lectured. Despite her sounding casual, her voice striked deep, like a knife impaling someone’s heart. “You also need the right morals, you know!” 

Barbara stayed silent as she shrunk back into her chair. At that very moment, it was as if everyone was laughing at her. 

And then, Aloy came out of the office. 

Xinyan was the first to run to her. “Aloy! Are you--” 

“I’m not in trouble.” Aloy replied, a ghost of a smile on her face as she shut the door behind her. “Barbara’s going to have a talk, and the Chief asked me to call her.” 

“Aloy Nora, thank the Seven Archons you are okay!” Sucrose sighed, relieved. 

“So...Barbara.” Aloy turned to Barbara and sighed. “You’re screwed.” Aloy admitted. “Chief wants to see you.” 

And as if her day couldn’t get any worse. 

 

“I’m so, so, so sorry!” Barbara sobbed, balled up on Aloy’s bed-sofa. The work day had ended, and like an everyday routine, they decided to crash at Aloy’s apartment. In their defense, it was the only apartment with a PS5 and was close to a good restaurant. “I didn’t mean to…” 

“Hey, hey, it’s okay!” Aloy replied, trying to comfort her friend. “I know, you really like them.” 

“Barbara, you have very skewed priorities. But I can’t blame you, you’re still in school.” Sucrose admitted. “But you’ve really got to remember why you’re an intern.” 

“So I can defend people that can’t defend themselves?” Barbara replied, still in tears. 

“Exactly.” Xinyan said. “Look, I’m still angry at you, but you’re still my friend.” Xinyan hesitated. “I’m sorry for yelling at you. I was angry.” 

“It’s okay...I really needed that.” Barbara replied. 

“Hey, I have some spare snacks in the fridge. You guys want some?” Aloy asked, ruffling through one of the cupboards in her little kitchen. She pulled out a few bags of chips. “I bought these from WanminMart.”

“It’s fine. Let’s order a pizza.” Barbara replied. 

“What do you guys want? It’s all on me!” Xinyan exclaimed, as Aloy set the bags of chips onto a kitchen counter.  

“I’ll have a pepperoni pizza.” Aloy said. 

“Yeah, let’s share a pizza.” Barbara agreed. “I mean, if there’s pineapple on it…” 

“If you put pineapple on your pizza, I will personally…” Sucrose threatened. Actually, it wasn’t a threat with her soft-sounding voice, it was more of a statement. 

“No pineapple.” Xinyan stated.

“Let’s go!” Barbara perked up. 

“On one condition,” Aloy interrupted. “Don’t order soda. I have a few bottles of soda in my fridge already, and I don’t want them to go to waste.” 

“Alrighty! Pizza party on Friday!” Xinyan laughed, clicking the “order” button on FoodGuoba. 

Anxious silence filled the room.

“Pizza is ON THE WAY!” 

The whole room erupted in cheers and hype. 

 

That evening, L/YUE’s headquarters…

“Guys, where’s Ganyu? We’re going to the interview now!” Keqing demanded. She, Yanfei and Hu Tao were standing outside the doors of the towering skyscraper, in front of a black limousine, ready to take them to another studio for an interview and performance. Their manager, Ningguang, was pacing up and down. 

“I have no idea.” Yanfei sighed. “I thought we insisted that she come.” 

“I hope she isn’t hurt.” Hu Tao said, genuine concern in her voice. “We need all members here…” 

Suddenly, Ningguang got into the limo. “Ganyu told us to go first. She said she’s ill.” 

Hu Tao grumbled under her breath in protest. As the girls strapped in, the limo sped off. However...

Chapter Text

Three days passed since Barbara nearly got Aloy’s internship terminated. Everything went by like normal, with 4NEMO filming their show, L/YUE practicing for their concert...And then we have our heroes, panicking over a very mouldy sandwich on a cold Monday morning. 

 

“So…” Xinyan winced, holding a garbage picker. Crouching behind her desk with Aloy and Barbara, all three interns wearing gas masks, Xinyan gingerly opened the bottom drawer of Sucrose’s desk. As the drawer opened with a creak, a disgusting smell flooded out of it. 

“Steady…” Barbara muttered. 

“How long was that thing in there?” Aloy asked, holding onto the gas mask. “A thousand days? Maybe even years ?!” 

As the garbage picker picked up the sandwich, Xinyan drew it near, and stored the mouldy sandwich in an evidence bag. 

“Now to destroy this thing.” Xinyan sighed. She dumped the sandwich in a nearby dustbin. Grabbing a can of air freshener, she sprayed what Barbara assumed was the entire can. However, the station stank of what seemed like lavender and sea breeze combined. Despite the interns wearing gas masks, the smell still leaked into them. 

“Yep, I kind of regret this!” Xinyan cried. 

“Abort mission! Abort!” Aloy coughed. “Who thought this was a great idea?!” 

Barbara sped to the drawers with a cloth and a bottle of disinfectant spray. “You two open the windows, I’ll sanitise the drawer!” she yelled. 

 

“So, first of all.” a young lady said, placing a stack of papers on a desk.

Nine in the morning, 4NEMO’s headquarters. All the four members of the band were in Jean’s office. And to all four of them, Jean, the young lady with her blonde hair neatly pulled back, was the one who chose them to be together as 4NEMO, AKA, their manager. The office had neat, clean walls, neatly arranged cabinets filled with files and papers and a window wall looking over the whole of New Mondstadt. Jean stood behind her wooden desk, facing the talents. Jean gave out a tired sigh. “4NEMO, we’re in for a busy month. We’ve got five concerts around the region, several interviews to go to, and you will be on TV. You know those shows? The ones where they interview the stars and they perform onstage?” 

“I’ve heard of them, yes.” Venti admitted, fiddling with their braids. 

Jean nodded. “You will be performing on-stage on concerts and TV shows. So, give it your all! I believe in all of you.” 

The faces of the talents lit up in determination.

“Manager…” Kazuha started. 

“What’s wrong?” Jean asked, walking towards him. “Is everything okay?” 

“I’m struggling with some of the dance moves. Could you help?” Kazuha asked. 

Jean looked at the other talents, who nodded and murmured in agreement. 

“I’ll try to help.” Jean agreed. 

Roars of joy filled the office. 

 

“Good morning everyone!” Sucrose greeted, entering the office. Immediately, Xinyan and Aloy ran to her, distraught. 

“Sucrose, why the FRICK did you leave that sandwich in the drawer?!” Aloy yelled. “Also! For the love of Rost, the bag wasn’t even properly sealed, and DID YOU FORGET WE INTERNS ARE THE FIRST TO ARRIVE BECAUSE OF SCHOOL HOLIDAYS ?!” 

Sucrose asked, “The bag was what?” 

Xinyan sighed. “The mould affected the drawer as well. Barbara had to spray a whole bottle of sanitiser to get rid of it. Aloy nearly set it on fire.” 

“Aloy WHAT--” Sucrose gasped. She pointed at Aloy. “You-you nearly set my desk on fire.” 

“Kill it with fire, she said.” Barbara said. “I’m not a professional, she said.” 

“THAT’S FOR COCKROACHES!” Xinyan sobbed. 

“COCKROACHES DESERVE TO BE SMACKED WITH THE SLIPPER!” 

“So, what’s going on?” Sucrose asked, walking to her desk. “Also, why is the bottom drawer missing?” 

“It had a ton of mould in it.” Xinyan and Barbara replied. 

“O-oh.” Sucrose took her seat. “Anyways, what happened last night?” 

“Besides a few emergency calls that resulted in Aloy showing up in her pyjamas…” Xinyan started, Barbara cracking up behind her.

“Hey!” Aloy yelled. “It was top priority!” 

“Just for a cat stuck in a tree.” Barbara sighed. “Poor kitty.” 

“Since it’s going to be a busy month for the entertainment industry, we’re going to be busier than usual.” Xinyan explained, “We have a few concerts to guard, we need to keep away some paparazzi, y’know.” 

“And Aloy has blue shark slippers.” Barbara snickered. 

“FOR THE LOVE OF--” 

“Okay, okay! Calm down.” Barbara laughed. “I won’t bring it up again.” 

“Also…” Sucrose leaned in. “There’s a cop I really am in love with here.” 

Xinyan and Barbara swooned. 

“Who is it?” Aloy asked, curious. “I may not be one for romance but I’m interested.” 

“One of the Detectives under this Precinct.” Sucrose replied, a voice a silent whisper. “His name is Albedo.” 

“Ah yes, that one guy.” Aloy sighed. “He took one of my hair ties and I have yet to get it back.” 

“Wait, what do you even see in him?” Barbara asked. “Isn’t he that one Detective that…” Barbara shielded Sucrose’s ear as her voice fell to a whisper. “...might be a therapist or something?” 

“Whoa!” Xinyan gasped. 

Aloy smacked Xinyan above the head. “But honestly. Besides the fact that he’s pretty cool and all, what do you see in him?” 

“He’s so pretty, smart, and…” Sucrose squealed. “He’s so cool, but I struggle to talk to him…or anyone in general.” 

The three interns looked at Sucrose. 

“It’s another case of Komi Can’t Communicate, huh?” Aloy and Xinyan asked in tandem. 

Barbara grinned. “So, I have an idea!” 

“What is it?” Xinyan asked. 

Barbara inhaled. “Sucrose, can you go to Coffee Castle and get me a…” 

Aloy and Xinyan stood in horror and amazement as Barbara spat out a long and complicated order. 

“Oh-um...Okay!” Sucrose nodded. 

Sucrose stood up, grabbed her wallet, and sprinted out of the doors.

“Barbara, what the heck?!” Aloy gasped, as Sucrose took off to get Barbara a coffee. “Why are you taking advantage of our senior?!” 

“I mean, it’s not that far…” Barbara laughed. 

“No, what she meant was…” Xinyan groaned. 

“Actually, I don’t think she wants the coffee.” Eula said. 

“Ah! Chief Officer!” Xinyan jumped, upon craning her neck to see Eula behind the three interns. 

“Chief Officer Eula! It’s good to see you.” Aloy stammered, trying to be polite. 

“So, what was it?” Xinyan asked. 

Eula chuckled. “What I’m saying is that I don’t think Barbara wants the coffee. Some of the Officers in the last Precinct I was in did that to practice communication.” 

“I see…” Xinyan muttered. 

Barbara laughed. “See? That’s what I wanted to do!” 

“Are you really sure this is a good idea, though?” Aloy questioned. “You know Coffee Castle is expensive as hell, and I don’t know if--” 

Sucrose burst into the room. 

“Barbara, here’s your coffee!” Sucrose gasped, setting the paper bag onto her desk. 

“Oh, that’s great! Thanks, Sucrose!” Barbara piped. Like an excited child on Christmas, she took out the coffee… “Sucrose, this is the wrong coffee.” 

“Again, it’s another case of Komi Can’t Communicate.” Aloy, Eula and Xinyan sighed, face-palming. 

 

For Barbara, it was normal for her to have dreamless nights. But last night was...disturbing to say the very least. 

She was in front of her friends, her family...everyone she’d ever met. And her failures. 

All of her failed exams. All the people she’d failed. All the promises she’d broken. 

And the girl she’d failed to love, her older sister.

And within seconds, her forearms were covered in scars and cuts. A blade covered with scarlet blood lay next to her feet. 

Barbara wanted to scream. She wanted to cry, even. 

Voices filled her head. 

“It’s all your fault.” 

“I’m disappointed in you.” 

“Why don’t you just disappear?” 

“The world would be better without a demon like you.” 

Empty promises. Empty threats. 

And the final blow…

“I really, really hate you, Barbs.” 

The words stung, as if someone had rubbed salt into her wounds, as if someone impaled her with a sword. Tears sprang to her eyes. A loud yell echoed. 

And then, Barbara jolted awake to glaring sunlight and a loud phone alarm. 

Gasping for air, she checked her forearms. Thankfully, they were void of any scars or wounds. 

“So it was just a dream…” she muttered to herself. 

And without warning, tears started to fall like rain. 

 

“Barbs? Barbara!” 

Without her knowledge, she’d started to cry again. Barbara noticed the file she was holding was stained with a few tears. 

Did it happen again?

Barbara craned her head to meet Xinyan’s gaze. 

“Are you okay?” Xinyan asked, worried. “You looked very pale…” 

“Ahaha…” Barbara racked her brain for a lie, an excuse so her friend wouldn’t worry. “I think I skipped breakfast…” 

“Really?” Xinyan asked. “Let’s head out for lunch, then.” 

“Oh-okay!” 

“Hey, wait for me!” Aloy called from behind, “I forgot my wallet!” 

The interns walked out of the office, trailing a certain Officer...

Chapter Text

“So...what is this all about?” Sucrose asked, suspicious of the three interns staring intently at her, like cats with giant, unblinking eyes. The three of them followed Sucrose like a herd of sheep following their shepherd. And now, they were seated at the very same table as Sucrose. At Good Hunter.  

“Albedo is coming here, right?” Xinyan asked. 

Sucrose nodded, “Yes…?” 

“Then now’s your chance to hit on him!” Barbara cheered. 

“I don’t really care about romance, but I wish you luck.” Aloy took out her phone. “I’m going to record this.” 

“There he is!” Xinyan gasped. 

A young man with blonde hair strode towards the stall. He had a pristine coat and a neat shirt and tie. His hair was also neat; despite being shoulder-length, it was neatly tied back with only a few straight ends. However, it wasn’t really tied back fully; part of his hair still leaked out of the ponytail. 

“He’s so cool…” Sucrose said. Suddenly, Barbara nudged her over to try to talk to Albedo. “Barbara, are you really sure?” 

“I’m sure.” Barbara nodded, a warm smile on her face.  

“Just ask him out for dinner!” Xinyan laughed. “I’m sure it’ll work.” 

“B-but… what if he-um…” Sucrose stuttered. 

“Relax. The worst thing he can say is ‘no’.” Aloy reassured, patting Sucrose’s back. “I had high school sweethearts, so I kind of know what to do.” 

“Okay!” Sucrose stood up, and headed towards Albedo. Upon seeing her, Albedo piped up. 

 

“Oh, hello, Sucrose.” Albedo greeted, politely. 

“Oh, um...hi!” Sucrose started. 

Aloy, Barbara and Xinyan were staring at the couple from the table. The three high-schoolers eagerly spied on their seniors as they ate their lunches. Aloy held her phone in her left hand and ate a hash brown wrapped in a napkin in her right. Xinyan nervously took a bite of her Mondstadt Grilled Fish. Barbara took a bite of her curry rice. 

“Um, Mister Albedo…” Sucrose stammered. She took a deep breath… “Wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-” 

Within seconds, Sucrose was vibrating violently, just like a ringing rotary phone or a massager gun at full speed.

“Dang it!” Aloy and Xinyan face-palmed. 

“I was right, Sucrose can’t communicate…” Aloy sighed. 

“Do I have to save her now?” Xinyan said. 

But before long, Barbara stood up and headed towards the couple. 

Barbara chuckled. “Sucrose wants to go out with you tonight! Sorry, she’s pretty shy.” 

“Oh!” Albedo nodded. 

“Y-yes, that was what I wanted to say…” Sucrose admitted. 

Suddenly, Albedo took Sucrose’s hand. 

“I accept the invitation.” Albedo grinned, “Where do you want to eat tonight?” 

 

“GUYS! WE DID IT!” Xinyan laughed, rushing back into the station. 

“What happened?” Eula asked, looking up from a few files. “Did you stop another criminal?” 

“That, and something else.” Aloy replied. 

“Did Aloy get a boyfriend?” Eula asked. 

“No, she’s in highschool.” Xinyan replied. 

“Wait, isn’t Aloy...” Barbara shrugged. 

“Nope.” Aloy said, smacking Barbara over the head. “I’m single and not ready to mingle .” 

Eula thought for a moment. “Albedo scored a date?” 

YES! ” Aloy, Barbara and Xinyan yell-replied, all in tandem. 

Eula clapped. “FinallY! IT’S BEEN THREE YEARS!” 

“Wait, three years?” Aloy asked. 

“Albedo promised to stay single after he became a cop.” Xinyan explained. “He swore he would never fall in love, but I guess he isn’t that stoic.” 

“Asking out of curiosity, but…” Eula leaned in, her voice falling to a curious whisper. “Who’s the new girlfriend?” 

“Sucrose.” Barbara replied. 

“I’m back!” The four of them heard Sucrose call. She ran over to the interns and Eula. “Chief, guess what? I’m going out with Albedo tonight!” 

“I know. Your interns told me about it.” Eula smiled. “Good for you, Detective Ampulla.” 

“T-thank you, Chief!” Sucrose replied. 

“Now, now.” Eula shooed away the interns. “You girls go back to work, I need to speak to your manager for a bit.” 

The three interns returned to their seats while Eula spoke to Sucrose. 

 

“So, Ganyu.” Ningguang, L/YUE’s manager, said, in a stern voice. The talents were in the break room, together with their manager, the super-beautiful and talented Ningguang. The break room had a lounge with a table, sofas and some beanbags. It also had a pantry with a fridge filled with food.

“Y-yes, Ningguang?” Ganyu replied, “Is there a problem?” 

Ningguang sighed. “You’re the problem, Ganyu.”
Ganyu froze in shock. 

“Manager--” 

“I have heard from Keqing and Yanfei that you pushed Hu Tao down the stairs. Due to this, she has a sprained ankle.” Ningguang yelled, “Do you know what that means?!” 

Ganyu wanted to say something, but she preferred it if she just shut up. 

“Ganyu, I am very disappointed in you.” Ningguang sighed, “I’m going to get you expelled from Celestia Entertainment if you keep this up.”  

Ganyu felt like her heart just broke into a million pieces. “Manager, that isn’t--” 

“Do not talk back to me, insolent girl!” 

Ganyu hesitated. “What I’m saying is that I didn’t do it…” 

“Liar.” a piercing voice said. Craning their heads, they saw Keqing, Yanfei and Hu Tao. Hu Tao was trying to stand on one foot while Yanfei held on to her. Keqing had her phone in her hand, with a photo of Ganyu. 

And it wasn’t any ordinary photo. It was a photo of Ganyu pushing Hu Tao down the stairs leading to the break room. 

“Let me see that.” Ningguang ordered. 

“Wait, that’s edited--” Ganyu said, trying to appeal, “I wasn’t even there!” 

“Hu Tao, did Ganyu push you down the stairs?” Ningguang asked, looking at the young girl with brown twintails. 

Yanfei shot her a look. 

Hu Tao sheepishly nodded. 

“Ganyu, I can’t believe you!” Ningguang yelled. “Why would you do that?! Do you know what that means?!” 

Ganyu hesitated, but Yanfei was quick to speak up. 

“Ganyu just wants to ruin our progress.” Yanfei said innocently. “She wants the whole group to flunk our biggest time to shine.” 

“And to make it worse,” Keqing continued, “Ganyu was jealous of Hu Tao. So she pushed her down the stairs.” 

The blue-haired girl was livid. Tears filled her pinkish gold eyes. She then took off sprinting, like a mountain goat escaping a predator. 

And in this case, it was a purple-haired wolf named Keqing. 

“Ganyu!” Ningguang cussed under her breath as she pulled back her silky white hair. “Ganyu, get back here!” 

Pfft. Keqing thought. 

That slut deserved it.  

 

“One, two, three!” Barbara started, holding her cyan 4NEMO lightstick and armed with 4NEMO merch. Aloy and Xinyan were in the same getup as Barbara. Despite being in an apartment, (well an apartment with a Playstation to be exact) they were decked out in headbands, shirts and shorts. Only differences in the outfits for each of them was that Barbara’s shirt was a light blue, Aloy tied her hoodie like a belt around her waist, and Xinyan wore a pair of red cotton wristbands. And just like Barbara, they had the 4NEMO lightsticks in hand. Since Sucrose was out on a date with Albedo that night, Eula had ordered the three high-schoolers to stay at their homes, while she spied on the (possible) sweethearts. 

“Aether! Venti! Xiao and Kazuha!” the three of them cheered. “We are 4NEMO!!!” 

“Well,” Xinyan chuckled, “I guess we’re ready for the concert!” 

“Why are we even doing this?” Aloy asked, deadpan. 

“Aloy, you’ve got to get started on New Teyvat’s entertainment!'' Barbara nagged, “You can’t be a fish out of water all the time!” 

“Hey, hey! Cut her some slack, she just moved from Dragonspine!” Xinyan yelled. 

Aloy slunked away to the kitchen counter and pulled out her phone. “Honestly, I’d rather play Cookie Run or Genshin at this point. I just don’t get the appeal.” 

“Oh, come on!” Barbara cried. “At least, just watch their appearance on TV tonight…” 

 

At a recording studio in New Liyue Harbour…

“So, you guys get ready, okay?” a spunky girl with a messy blonde ponytail said. “I’ve driven all the way from New Inazuma City for this, so give it your all!” 

As Kazuha stared at the enthusiastic girl, he pointed to her sloppily-worn red sweater. “Yoimiya, your sweater…” 

“It’s fine, it’s fine!” Yoimiya laughed, pulling up the stray sleeve. She turned to leave. “I’m gonna get ready, so you guys get into your stage outfits and get ready to rumble!!!” 

The door slammed behind the four singers as they were left in their dressing room. 

“So…” Aether started. 

“Let’s give this our all, everyone!” Venti cheerfully piped. “It’s going to be the start of the end-of-year events, so let’s start it with a bang.” 

“Venti’s right.” Xiao replied. 

“Eeh? I thought you were always so grumpy…” Venti sulked, fiddling with their cyan braids. 

“Anyways, let’s get ready for the interview.” Kazuha smiled. “I’m sure Jean is cheering us on from her changing room. So!” 

The four of them piled their hands in. 

“Aether!” 

“Venti!” 

“Xiao!” 

“And Kazuha!” 

Lifting their hands into the sky, they cheered. “Let’s go, 4NEMO!”

Chapter Text

Xinyan had never cowered in the face of fear. She had never done that. She was always the brave one, the one who was willing to smack textbooks on cockroaches, the one who was willing to do anything for her friends.

So, she didn’t know why she flinched at the bloody silver petals of a Glaze Lily. 

She backed off when she saw them, only for more to flood out of her mouth. 

More petals filled the floor, until she drowned in them. 

And that’s when she saw her. 

Barbara Pegg. 

The first friend she’d met when she moved to New Mondstadt a few years ago. 

The girl that joined the NTPD Internship with her. 

And somehow, the girl she fell for. 

Xinyan was bisexual, yes. But she’d never fallen in love. 

But this wasn’t love, was it?

The girl had her back turned towards Xinyan, and she seemed...disappointed.

And now…

 

When she woke up, everyone was asleep. Barbara was wrapped in a blanket while Aloy was half-on-half-off the bed-sofa. What had happened? Oh, yeah. The fact that she and Barbara crashed at Aloy’s and ended up watching 4NEMO late into the night. The fact that she took advantage of her friend made her heart ache. But…

“Hey, Xin.” 

Xinyan turned to Barbara, who was half-awake. 

“Are you okay?” 

 

The very next day, the 69th Precinct…

Like a normal routine, the three interns got to work on filing and sorting out the files. As interns, they were given the most mundane tasks. However, they were called up if there was a case they needed to handle; they were the most efficient interns the Police Department has seen, after all. 

“Sucrose! Good morning!” Barbara said, upon seeing their green-haired senior walk through the doors. She was smiling from ear-to-ear. 

“So, how did that date go?” Xinyan asked, a smug look on her face. “Did you two kiss?” 

“Well…” Sucrose muttered. Her face turned red. “Not...on the lips…” 

“Okay, that’s nice.” Aloy replied, deadpan. Unlike her normal snarky self, she had her hood up, and her eyes seemed dead. She was hugging her knees and looked as if someone had eaten the last bowl of WanminMart Mint Jelly right in front of her eyes. 

“Wha-what’s wrong?” Sucrose stammered, panicked. “D-d-did I hurt your feelings or something?!” 

Aloy huffed. “There are single people here, you know…” 

Xinyan face-palmed. 

“Wait, what happened last night, while I was away?” Sucrose demanded. “I need an answer, now!” 

“Xinyan told Barbara that she loved her. And now I feel sad now that I’m the only single one here.” 

“Hey, hey! We’re not ready for romance yet, so I humbly declined…” Barbara stammered, “I mean--” 

Aloy turned away. It was as if a dark aura surrounded her and she’d turned pale. “Leave me the hell alone and let me stew in despair.” 

“ALOY, WE’RE SORRY!!!” The three other girls apologised, upon realising they had possibly hurt their friend’s feelings. 

 

“Ganyu still hasn’t come back yet, and it’s been…” Hu Tao checked her phone. “It’s been around a few hours, and it’s already Tuesday.” 

“As if anyone would care about her.” Keqing replied. “She’s a waste of space.” 

“But, honestly. I am concerned.” Yanfei answered. “Y’know, Ganyu can’t defend herself. And out of all of us, she’s the most attractive.” 

“Hey-wait.” Keqing hesitated for a minute. “ You have a point . People could kidnap her and…I don’t want to think about it.” 

“I thought you hated Ganyu.” Hu Tao said in disbelief. 

Keqing nodded. “Sure, I hate that whore. I believe she only got in because of her appearance and stuff, but...wanting her to get hurt or possibly die? Or even molested? That would never be accepted. Also, I never expected her to run off. I only wanted her to...get expelled from L/YUE.”  

“Girls, where is Ganyu? We need to practice!” Ningguang said, rushing into the room in her suit and tie. 

“We don’t know. She ran off, and…” Hu Tao tried to explain, but her hand movements weren’t helping at all. But thankfully, Ningguang was good at reading her body language.

“So you’re saying...GANYU’S POSSIBLY MISSING?!” Ningguang yelled, in shock. 

Yanfei shook her head. “No, no! She’s probably resting at home--” 

“I checked her place. No sign of her. It’s like she left for work in the morning, and she’s gone.” Hu Tao replied. 

Yanfei moaned. “What do we do now…?” 

“I say we get the police involved.” 

Everyone turned to Keqing. 

“But…” Ningguang sighed. “We have a busy month--” 

“The safety of the talent is more important than money.” Keqing continued. “Put the group on hiatus. Make a public announcement. And once she’s back, we can continue where we left off.” 

“But--” Hu Tao tried to explain. “I thought you hated Ganyu.” 

“This is for the sake of L/YUE. If not, we’ll have to get a new member.” Ningguang agreed. “We’ll get the cops involved. And we’ll be on hiatus until Ganyu comes back.” 

Everyone nodded. 

“Okay then, let’s get going!” Hu Tao said, running to the recording room. “Let’s get the announcement done and over with!” 

 

“Guys! Look at this!” Barbara gasped. 

For the interns, it was now lunch time, and they were at the usual restaurant, Good Hunter. And like any normal person, she was using her phone while she ate her fried rice. 

“What is it?” Xinyan asked, her mouth stuffed with fried chicken. 

Barbara hurriedly showed her phone screen to Aloy and Xinyan. “Take a look!” 

On the screen was an official announcement from L/YUE. It read: 

 

“To all fans of L/YUE, 

It is with a heavy heart that the group will have to go on hiatus for the time being. One of the members, Ganyu Sinae, has gone missing. She was last seen by the group members of L/YUE when she suddenly ran out of the office. She has been missing since then. 

We have decided to go on hiatus until she is found. In the meantime, we plan to involve the police in the matter. 

Thank you for supporting L/YUE. We will update you as soon as possible. 

Celestia Entertainment” 

 

The three of them were stunned. 

“Ganyu…” Aloy was the first to speak. “She’s missing. And the cops are involved.”  

Suddenly, Xinyan felt her pocket vibrate.

"Go on." Barbara nodded.

Picking out her phone, she answered it as the two interns looked on. 

“We’ve got to report back to HQ.” Xinyan said, solemnly. She stood up as the chair squeaked like a mouse. 

 

“The Chief is calling for an emergency meeting.” 

 

“I am certain that the five of you have read the notice.” Eula said to Albedo, Aloy, Barbara, Sucrose and Xinyan. 

The three interns and the two detectives stood in Eula’s pristine office as the Chief stood in front of them. A case file was on her desk. The office had a view of New Mondstadt, but light curtains hid the sunlight, making the office feel cold. The walls were a plain snowy white and the floor had the same wood panelling the office shared. The walls had a few photos and certificates, a few medals here and there; but overall they were almost empty. 

“As you know, superstar Ganyu has gone missing.” Eula announced. “The last time she was seen was in the break room of L/YUE’s studio, and she has disappeared since then.” 

“I understand, but…” Xinyan trailed off. “Why us?” 

Eula adjusted her tie. “The five of you are the best members of the 69th Precinct. I will be guiding you on this case; it shouldn’t be an issue since the whole police department is on the case.” 

“Chief, just a question.” Sucrose asked, raising her hand. 

“What is it?” Eula asked. 

“Which areas does this Precinct cover?” 

Everyone stared at Sucrose as if she said she liked pineapple on pizza. Or if she said she liked dunking her Oreos in water, not milk.  

“Hey!” Sucrose hastily tried to defend herself as the piercing stares stabbed into her soul like sharp needles. “I forgot, okay?” 

“The 69th Precinct covers the areas of New Mondstadt, New Liyue Harbour, New Inazuma City and any neighbouring areas.” Eula reminded the group. “Except Dragonspine. No-one dares to go there.” 

“So, where are we off to first?” Albedo asked. 

“I guess we’re off to L/YUE’s studio.” Barbara nodded. “I mean...We would need to ask the other group members. Maybe they know something we don’t.” 

“Should I bring out the lie detector?” Xinyan asked, grinning. 

Eula contemplated. “Sadly, I remembered that they were getting repaired, so maybe no.” 

The five cops nodded. 

“If everything is clear, let’s head off.” Eula announced, adjusting her coat. “Time is not on our side. So,” 

Eula turned to the door. The detectives and interns followed suit. 

“Let’s make haste!”

Chapter Text

L/YUE’s studio lived in a simple shop-lot. The shutters were always closed and the Liyuean street seemed dilapidated and abandoned. After all, it was in an abandoned part of Chihu Rock, AKA, the poor part of New Liyue Harbour. Some of the lots had torn closing sale banners, some of the shutters on the lots were covered in graffiti and litter filled the streets. People in the streets shivered at the sight of the police. Some pointed at them. Some gossiped about them. And someone questioned why a certain ginger-haired police officer would wear a light brown hoodie...in the middle of the day.  

Eula rapped on the slightly rusty metal door. The door’s red paint was peeling off by then, affected by the years of crime and grime. 

“New Teyvat Police Force! Open up!” Eula hollered. 

Within a few seconds, a tall, young lady with white hair opened the door. Right behind her were the three members of L/YUE, Hu Tao, Keqing and Yanfei. Sucrose was practically squealing at the sight of L/YUE and their manager. 

“You-you’re…” Sucrose stammered. 

Albedo rubbed circles on Sucrose’s back. “Hey now, calm down…” 

“We are from the Police Force.” Eula introduced. Before she could say anything, Aloy jumped into the conversation. 

“We’re on the case of a young lady that has gone missing.” Aloy said, firmly. She took a step in front of the Chief. Barbara and Xinyan gaped at Aloy in pure awe and shock at how a girl around their age was that mature. Meanwhile, Sucrose was still fangirling silently over the girl group. 

“A young lady that has gone missing?” the white-haired lady asked, steel in her voice. But even so, Aloy didn’t back down. 

“Young lady at the age of twenty-two. Her name is Ganyu Sinae.” Aloy showed a photo of Ganyu on her phone. “Young lady with a cool headband, pale blue hair, multi-heterochromatic eyes that fade from purple to gold. Have you seen her?”  

Everyone was stunned. 

“How old are you?” Keqing asked, stepping forward. Her voice had a slight tinge of mockery in it. 

“I’m nineteen, ma’am.” Aloy replied, compliant. 

Keqing scoffed. “Shouldn’t a girl like you be in school? How are you even a cop? If you’re acting tough, it isn’t working, you little birdbrain.” 

“Excuse me, internships are a thing. Additionally, I’m not playing games.” Aloy replied. 

“Well, you look ugly. Messy ginger hair, stupid hoodie...also, hah!” Keqing pushed the ginger-haired girl back into the crowd. “Your freckles are UGLY. I hate them!” 

Eula caught the young girl in her arms, however. “Ma’am, you have no right to do this. We are here on the missing person case.” 

Keqing froze. 

“So...the kid in…” Keqing stammered. 

“My name’s Aloy? Also, I’m not playing games. We’re here on serious business.” Aloy sighed. “Honestly, the nerve of people…” 

“Come on in.” the tall lady invited. “Additionally, I am Ningguang, L/YUE’s manager.” 

As the cops and the members of the girl group filed up the stairs, Hu Tao tapped on Aloy’s shoulder.

“Also,” Hu Tao whispered in Aloy’s ear, “Sorry about Keqing. Don’t tell her I said this, but she’s a manipulative son of a witch.” 

 

As the group entered the break room, Xinyan shut the doors behind her and took out her notepad. 

“Sucrose, Albedo, you may do the honours.” Xinyan smirked in the couple’s direction. 

“Wh-wha?!” Sucrose turned red. 

“Don’t get the wrong idea. You two are detectives, aren’t you?” Aloy asked. “You two can do the interviews, right?” 

“Um...I think we should let Eula decide.” Albedo laughed. 

“Honestly, you call yourselves cops? You don’t even know what to do.” Keqing laughed, perched on one of the beanbags. 

“I swear to God, I’m going to…!” Xinyan felt like she was going to punch someone in the face, and it was hard. Thankfully, Barbara was there to calm her down. 

“This girl has the audacity to say things like that?!” Aloy whispered. “If I wasn’t an intern, I would’ve…!” 

Aloy started cursing under her breath. Sucrose and Albedo start discussing the case. Barbara was trying to calm down Xinyan, but then, Eula looked up from thought.

“Everyone, calm down.” Eula spoke. “I figured out a plan.”  

Everyone, even Keqing, looked at her. 

“Aloy, Sucrose. You two will interview Hu Tao and Yanfei. Xinyan, Barbara and Albedo will search for clues. Meanwhile, I’ll talk to Ningguang and Yanfei.” Eula clarified. “That way, we at least have a plan.” 

“Sounds good to me.” Albedo nodded. “Should we get started?” 

 

After the interrogations, the group of six head to the Wanmin Restaurant for lunch. They were seated at a table near the front of the shop. The warm afternoon sun shone upon the city, and its light and warmth leaked into the shoplot.  

“Okay, so let’s run over what we know.” Eula started. She took out her notebook. 

“I’ll start from what I heard from Hu Tao.” Aloy volunteered. Her mind wandered back to around a couple hours ago, when she asked the super-kind, yet super mischievous pop-star. Despite her being a little prankster as portrayed by the media, she answered Aloy’s questions with the utmost honesty.

 

A couple hours ago, L/YUE’s break room…

Aloy: “So, what you’re saying is that Ganyu always stays back for extra practice?”

Hu Tao: “Yes. She isn’t really that good at the new chreo-choro… (how do I pronounce this?)” 

Aloy: *correcting Hu Tao* “It’s pronounced “cho-rEo-graphy. Try saying it slowly. I’ll repeat it if you need to.” 

Hu Tao: “Choreography, cho-reo-graphy! Yeah. (Thanks, Aloy!)” 

Aloy: “No problem.” 

Hu Tao: *Fiddling with her fingers* “Soo...She practices the dance a lot, so she…” *rubs the back of her neck* “She practices a lot. She once stayed in the studio overnight.” 

Aloy: “Can you please give me more details? As in, what does her daily routine look like?” 

Hu Tao: *motioning with hands* “I don’t really know, but Ganyu always puts her things in the same locker. She always leaves her backpack in it and only takes out her water bottle and phone.” 

Hu Tao: “I never saw what she had inside her backpack, but it always seemed to be heavy.” 

Aloy: “How heavy, by your estimates?” 

Hu Tao: “Imagine a school bag with all your school books inside, but multiply that weight by two.” 

Aloy: *nodding* “What does the bag look like?”

Hu Tao: *taking out her phone* “I secretly took a photo of her wearing it, so this photo should help.” 

*Hu Tao shows a photo of Ganyu wearing a dark blue camping backpack with neon pink accents.* 

Aloy: “So that’s the bag?” 

*Hu Tao nods.*

Aloy: “Okay, do you have any other things you know about Ganyu?” 

Hu Tao: *Takes a deep breath* “I have never, ever, EVER, seen Ganyu in a short-sleeved outfit. I have no idea why, but she’s always wearing a blue sports jacket.” 

Aloy: *nods* “Okay, I shall keep that in mind. Thank you for your cooperation.” 

 

“So, now we know what Ganyu wears.” Barbara nodded. “And she has a backpack.” 

Aloy shook her head. “I don’t know if she dumped the jacket anywhere or even took the bag. For all we know, Ganyu could dump the jacket and wear a new one and she could’ve used another bag and left the old one at home.” 

“If Ganyu ‘disappeared’, she might make it look like she was leaving for work in the morning.” Eula stated. 

“Agreed.” Albedo replied. “I had a friend who ‘disappeared’, so I know how it works.” 

Aloy, Xinyan and Sucrose raised their hands. “We just watched the documentary from Inazuma Daily.” 

“Teyvat Undercover?” Barbara asked. 

Aloy, Xinyan and Sucrose nodded. 

“The one about johatsu .” Xinyan said. 

“The one where people run away for a new life.” Aloy said. 

“Isn’t that the same thing?” Sucrose asked. 

Yes .” the two interns replied. 

“But what if it wasn’t a case of johatsu?” Albedo challenged. “For all we know, she could’ve gotten kidnapped.” 

“Now that’s another variable to weigh.” Eula sighed. “Honestly, what are our bets?” 

Johatsu .” Aloy, Xinyan and Sucrose said, raising their hands. 

“Kidnapping.” Albedo said. 

“Um...I don’t know, I’m also going with the Johatsu theory...” Barbara stammered. “Or maybe she ran away from home?” 

“But if this is a Johatsu case, how are we going to find Ganyu? Isn’t private information locked under lock and key in Inazuma?” Xinyan pondered. 

“Ganyu is a Liyuean citizen.” Aloy said, tapping her index finger on the wooden table. “Under Liyuean law…” 

“We should be able to access the info!” Barbara finished. “Yes! I remembered that we have access to private information if we’re solving a case!” 

“Thankfully this isn’t Inazuma. In Inazuma, we can only get access if there’s an accident or some sort.” Albedo smiled. “So we should be able to track her down.” 

“But I’m not sure.” Sucrose said, recalling her interrogation with Yanfei. 

 

Sucrose: “So, why did Ganyu run off?” 

Yanfei: “Simple answer, Keqing being a manipulative SOB.” 

Sucrose: *nods* “Did something happen?” 

Yanfei: “Keqing framed her for pushing Hu Tao down the stairs, when Hu Tao just tripped.” 

Sucrose: “So, what part were you in that?” 

*Yanfei sighs* 

Yanfei: “For some reason, Keqing hates anyone who seems better than her, even one bit. I have no idea why, so I pretended to follow her so she wouldn’t hurt me.”  

Sucrose: “So, she wants to be the best?” 

Yanfei: “When Keqing was little, one of her dreams was to be the best idol of all time. And because she was like a little bully when she was small, she knows she has to do anything ” *Yanfei does air quotes* “just to get what she wants. Even if it means bullying or resorting to dark measures.” 

 

“I swear to Barbatos…” Barbara gasped. 

“Okay, that is frickin’ cruel.” Aloy shivered, curling up. “I never knew people would do that.” 

“See?!” Xinyan gasped, “Keqing’s so cruel, even Aloy is surprised!” 

“Aloy gets surprised or shocked at any injustice, so this isn’t special at all!” Sucrose yelled. 

“So much for being Chaotic Good…” Barbara sighed. 

“Anyways, I interviewed Ningguang and Keqing.” Eula said. “And from what the other members said, I think Keqing painted a different picture.” 

The five others looked at Eula inquisitively. 

“Excuse me, what?” Aloy asked. 

“Keqing...painted a different picture?” Xinyan muttered. “But even so…” 

Eula cleared her throat. “Let me tell you what Keqing told me. Before you pass any judgement, it’s better to hear her out first.”

Chapter Text

“I swear to Barbatos…” Barbara gasped. 

“Okay, that is frickin’ cruel.” Aloy shivered, curling up into the plastic chair. “I never knew people would do that.” 

“See?!” Xinyan gasped, “Keqing’s so cruel, even Aloy is surprised!” 

“Aloy gets surprised or shocked at any injustice, so this isn’t special at all!” Sucrose yelled. 

“So much for being Chaotic Good…” Barbara sighed. 

“Anyways, I interviewed Ningguang and Keqing.” Eula said. “And from what the other members said, I think Keqing painted a different picture.” 

The five others looked at Eula inquisitively. 

“Excuse me, what?” Aloy asked. 

“Keqing...painted a different picture?” Xinyan muttered. “But even so…” 

Eula cleared her throat. “Let me tell you what Keqing told me. Before you pass any judgement, it’s better to hear her out first.” 

 

Eula pulled out her phone and played the video recording from the interrogation. 

Eula: “So, what happened on the day when Ganyu ran off?” 

Keqing: “I saw her push Hu Tao down the stairs. I quickly took a photo and told Ningguang, and she held the meeting.” 

Eula: “I see. Why do you think she did that?” 

Keqing: “Because she’s an arrogant whore. She always struts her stuff and she is just...I can’t explain how annoying she is.” 

Eula: “Did Ganyu do anything to you?” 

Keqing: “She always bumps into me when we practice our choreo, and then she always talks about me behind my back. She called me a fake cat girl and told me to...” *Keqing mimics slitting her wrist*  

Eula: *nods* “So what you’re saying is that Ganyu picked on you.” 

Keqing: “Yes! She uses her popularity to pick on me like vultures on a carcass.” 

Eula: “Okay, I will keep this in mind.” 

 

When the recording was finished, the others stared in horror. Their food had arrived, and no-one dared to touch it out of shock. 

“So what Keqing said was that Ganyu picked on her.” Xinyan started. 

“Wait, wait, wait.” Aloy said, waving her hands. “If she said that Ganyu was at fault, then how do we know if Hu Tao and Yanfei were telling the truth?” 

“Let’s do some predictions.” Albedo said, taking a bite from his Jueyun Guoba. “First, let’s keep in mind that we don’t know who is telling the truth and who is lying. Remember that we had no lie detectors since they were getting repaired.” 

“Yes. We have no idea who is at fault here, so let’s keep that neutral.” Barbara said, her mouth full of Matsutake Meat Rolls. 

Aloy took a bite of her Jade Parcels. “So, we have three outcomes. First outcome is that Hu Tao and Yanfei are truthful.” 

“But what about Ningguang?” Xinyan asked. 

Albedo sighed. “Ningguang just said this.” 

 

Ningguang: “Ganyu? Ah yes, that waste of space.” 

Albedo: “Wait, what happened between all of them?” 

Ningguang: *sighs* “She’s always messing up everything. The dance, the recording...she even picks on her fellow group mates, especially Hu Tao.” 

Albedo: “I understand.” 

Ningguang: “Most of the time, I’m just neutral ground. That’s it. I rarely get involved in their squabbles. But judging from what she did, I was actually considering expelling her.” 

 

“I see.” Eula nodded. 

“In all scenarios, Ningguang is neutral ground, so she is not guilty of anything. She’s just a teacher scolding unruly students; she’s just doing her job.” Aloy said. She pulled out a tattered sketchbook and a mechanical pencil, and started rapidly scribbling notes on an empty sheet of paper.  

“If what Hu Tao and Yanfei said were true, then Keqing might be playing the victim card.” Sucrose said, swallowing her bite of Mora Meat. 

“Yes, that’s plausible.” Albedo nodded. 

“Scenario two is that Keqing is telling the truth, and that Ganyu is at fault.” Aloy continued. Suddenly, she panicked and grabbed a glass of icy water and chugged down the whole thing. 

“Aloy!? Are you okay!?” Xinyan panicked. 

“Hot, hot, hot! And I forgot the broth was super spicy!” Aloy wailed. 

“There, there…” Sucrose took out a carton of milk. “This should help…” 

“Thanks…” Aloy stammered, as she drank the milk. After she finished the carton, she returned to her smart demeanor. “The second scenario might not even be true since we have two statements against her.” 

“But what if it’s true?” Eula asked. 

“Then we’ll have to see this in a new light.” Barbara replied. “Aloy, what’s the third option?” 

“No-one is telling the truth, and something else actually happened.” 

Everyone stared at Aloy. 

“But what if everyone is telling the truth?” Xinyan asked. 

“I don’t think that’s the case.” Aloy took another Jade Parcel and popped it in her mouth. “This is a two-truths-one-lie situation. Not as if Hu Tao and Yanfei were right, but it’s a case of ‘there are three statements, one or more of them could be lies, try to identify the lie/lies’.” 

Everyone nodded. 

“We know one party is lying.” Aloy continued. “However, we don’t know who is the one at fault. 

Everyone at the table nodded in agreement. 

“But the third outcome. What if something else happened, and they were all covering it up?” Sucrose asked. 

“I am not sure.” Albedo replied. “I’m predicting that they were all lying to hide something.” 

“So at this point, we need Ganyu’s verdict to debunk this.” Eula concluded. “But for now, let’s continue the investigation.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, guys!” Barbara called, perched on Aloy’s sofa (again) with her phone in hand. After the eventful afternoon, the six of them (Aloy included) decided to crash at Aloy’s apartment (again). It was a bit more crowded since there were two additional people in the apartment, but it all still worked out. 

“Barbara?” Eula asked. “What did you find?” 

Barbara showed her phone. “I did some digging, and I found out that Ganyu had a youtube channel!” 

Xinyan walked over to Barbara in curiosity. She took the phone and scrolled through the videos. “Whoa...that’s a lot of stream archives. Oh, and she has song covers, too!” 

“Could you play one of them?” Aloy asked. 

Xinyan nodded, and tapped on the first cover she found. 

Never any good, I’m never any good, I know it because it’s true.

You don't have to tell me, I know I never will be

Anywhere as good as her...

“Jesus Christ…” Albedo gasped. “She is a good singer.” 

“Yeah, I noticed that too. But why does she seem…” Aloy stuttered, trying to find the right words. “...sad? It’s like she’s holding back tears or something.” 

“Wait! When was this posted?” Eula jumped to her feet. “Before L/YUE or after L/YUE?!” 

Xinyan checked the date. “It was after L/YUE. This was posted in early April last year, a month after the debut. The fourth of April.” 

“And that was the same time when…” Aloy froze. 

“A-Aloy?” Sucrose reached out to the girl, frozen in shock. “A-are you okay?” 

“Wait, crap! She’s crying!” Xinyan gasped. She put the phone on the sofa and ran over. She put her hands on Aloy’s shoulders. “Aloy? Are you alright? Answer me!” 

“Albedo, pull out Google.” Eula demanded. “During that time, what happened?!” 

Albedo looked to the ceiling, as if trying to recall something. “That reminds me, the same day this cover was posted, there was a horrible accident in Springvale.” 

“A-an accident?!” Sucrose gasped. 

Albedo nodded. “On that very day, someone planted a bomb in a bus that took people from Dragonspine to Mondstadt. The explosion killed everyone except an eighteen-year-old girl.” 

Everyone looked in horror as Albedo explained the calamity. 

“The sole survivor was unconscious for a few days, and when she woke up, she realised her father was dead, and…” Albedo sighed. He soon regained his composure. “The incident was called the Proving Massacre, not because of Horizon Zero Dawn, but because the bomber was trying to prove a point to a crime lord or something. I can’t remember fully.” 

Upon the horrible news dawning on them, all eyes were on the poor girl in the Horizon Zero Dawn hoodie. 

“So A-Aloy…” Xinyan started. 

“Aloy was the sole survivor…?” Eula asked. 

The poor girl just nodded. 

“Aloy…” 

“It-it…” Aloy started stammering. She tightly clutched her jacket. “It’s a-all my fault.” 

“Aloy, what the hell are you saying?!” Barbara gasped. 

“It was my fault that Rost died. It was my fault that I killed the only person that cared about me. I’m to blame. I killed all of them. I killed them. If I wasn’t on the bus, then maybe, just maybe…” 

Everyone stared in horror and concern at Aloy’s rant. Such a young girl, having to go through something like that? Everyone looked at each other, searching for a solution. At this point, Aloy was rubbing the fabric of her jacket against the skin of her forearms rapidly. And then…

Barbara swallowed the girl in a tight embrace. 

“Hey, listen. Whenever it comes to things like these, it’s mainly never your fault. Even if you didn’t board the bus, it would’ve still happened.” Barbara consoled. 

“Even so…” 

“Rost threw you out of the bus, didn’t he?” 

Suddenly, it fell silent. It was like someone snapped. But soon, Aloy managed a shy nod with a few sniffles.

“Hey, bud…” Xinyan joined in on the hug. “Again, this wasn’t your fault. Hey, hey, it’s okay.” 

“Aloy, this is a wild guess, but this hoodie…” Sucrose pointed to the jacket. 

“Y-yeah. This was the last thing Rost gave me before the accident.” Aloy replied. Her voice was still shaky, but she was already returning the hug that Barbara gave, and it seemed to calm her down a little. “I always loved Horizon Zero Dawn, and I always wanted this hoodie. So, he brought it for me on my birthday.” 

Barbara broke away from the hug. “If you need to talk, we’re here.” 

“Thanks, Barbara.” 

“We’re sorry that happened.” Albedo apologised. Sucrose nodded. 

“Once all this blows over, I’m gonna get Aloy a therapist.” Eula patted the intern on her head. “There, there. We can’t change the past, but we can still forge the future.” 

“Anyways, the song covers.” Xinyan remembered. “I’ve scrolled a bit, and I found a pattern.” 

“What pattern?” Aloy asked, curious. 

“The songs Ganyu covered are...sad to say the very least.” Xinyan pointed. Aloy took the phone out of Xinyan’s hands. 

“Compared Child, Racing Into the Night, Heather, Love is Gone...holy frick.” Aloy gasped. She looked up. “These sound like songs I would play when I have a mental breakdown!” 

“Aloy, you keep deflecting your trauma with humour.” Albedo noted. 

“Well, thank you, sir.” 

“I didn’t say that was a good thing.” 

“Well, all I hear is that you find me funny!” 

“For the love of Barbatos, Aloy desperately needs therapy.” Barbara sighed. 

Aloy gave the phone back to Barbara. “So Ganyu sings on her YouTube in her free time. Well, that’s a first. Does Celestia Entertainment have anything against social media?” 

“Last, I checked, no.” Sucrose answered. “They let the talents have social media and stuff. 

“Ganyu’s last stream was yesterday.” Barbara said. “It was a Just Chatting stream, and…” 

Everyone looked at each other. 

“Play the archive.” Eula ordered. “Aloy, this is a Smart TV, right?” 

Aloy nodded. 

“I’ll pull it up.” Xinyan said, reaching for the TV remote. 

Xinyan did as she was told, and the archive played. The group listened closely. 

 

In the middle of the stream…

Chat: What is your opinion of Keqing?

Ganyu: “Oh, Keqing! She’s not bad, not bad at all! She’s pretty cool.” 

Chat: i’m skeptical

Chat: keqing that son of a #####

Chat: are you sure she’s not picking on you?

Ganyu: “No, no! Keqing isn’t picking on me. She really cares about me, that’s it.” 

Ganyu: “After all, if I were to get picked on...I’m sure I’ll be able to fight back.” 

Chat: Are you sure she isn’t manipulating you?

Ganyu: “…”

Ganyu: “Anyways!” 

 

“Yep, topic deflect.” Albedo spotted. 

“How can you tell?” Sucrose asked. 

Albedo nodded. “I'm just very observant.” 

“But…” Xinyan mentioned, “Her voice feels strained. Also, her eyes look glassy.” 

“Wait a minute.” Aloy rewound the archive to an earlier timestamp. 

 

Chat: What’s your least favourite colour? Just asking

Ganyu: “Oh, it’ll be purple.” 

Ganyu: “The colour purple always hurts me.” 

 

Aloy paused the tape. She rewound it, and then replayed it again. 

“I don’t think this is a coincidence anymore.” Aloy snapped. “I don’t think this is a flippin’ coincidence anymore.” 

“Purple...always hurts her…?” Xinyan pondered. “What does she mean?” 

“Someone who is associated with the colour purple always hurts her!” Sucrose guessed. 

“Ex-act-ly.” Aloy pointed at Sucrose. “It’s a bit of a hint that someone hurt her. Especially since it’s common knowledge that Ganyu is good at literature and wordplay.” 

“And guess who is purple!” Barbara asked, “It’s the one and only Keqing Yuheng!” 

“Wait, what if she meant someone else?” Eula guessed. 

Aloy shrugged. “I don’t know, but let’s keep that in mind just in case. We should get a team to check her social media posts and stuff.” 

Eula pulled her phone out and typed a message to one of the police teams. “They’re informed.” 

“Great. In the meantime, we should plan our next move.” Xinyan slammed her fists on the kitchen counter with a sigh. “If Keqing really was responsible…” 

“Hey, hey! Calm down…” Barbara laughed. 

“Should we catch some sleep first, though?” Albedo yawned. “Aloy looks like she’s going to collapse.” 

Eula looked at everyone. “I suppose we can all crash here for tonight.” Eula turned to Aloy. “You have spare mattresses, right?” 

 

The very same evening, an apartment in New Liyue Harbour…

Hu Tao took a deep breath as she set up her webcam. 

“Are you sure about this?” Yanfei asked, on call. “You know, if it’s because of the case…” 

“It’s for Ganyu. And for L/YUE.” Hu Tao replied. “I won’t stand for it anymore.” 

Yanfei stayed silent. 

“Yan-Yan, this isn’t because I want to cement a fact thanks to the investigations. I am sick and tired of Keqing’s shit.” Hu Tao said. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll help you edit the video. Just record your part of the story, and send it to me.” Yanfei replied. 

“You know video editing?” Hu Tao gasped. 

Yanfei giggled. “You didn’t know I know how to use iMovie, did you? Anyways, good luck. I’m gonna log off the call now.” 

“Yeah, see you.” 

The two girls logged off the Discord call. 

This is it. Hu Tao thought, If Keqing kills me for this, it’s worth it. After all, it’s for a friend. 

The red light turned on, signalling to Hu Tao that it was recording. Hu Tao took a deep breath. 

“Good evening, fellow Liyueans, Walnuts and fans of L/YUE. I am Hu Tao of L/YUE, and I have an important announcement to make.” 

Chapter Text

The next morning, 4NEMO’s studio…

The group had finished recording their song, Final Flashback. They were resting in the dance studio as, number one they had no break room (yet) and number two the dance studio was nice and spacious. Venti sprinted into the room with a red device and a notebook and some pens in their hands. 

“Guys, let’s play Boggle!” Venti yelled. 

Everyone looked at them quizzically. 

“That game?” Xiao asked. “How in the name of Celestia did you get your hands on that?” 

Venti grinned. “I found this thing at the bottom of my drawer, so I decided to change the batteries, and BOOM!” 

“Well, that sounds fun, but…” Aether looked away. “Are we really on a break, I mean, we need to do the choreo, we need to decide the stage outfits…” 

“Come on, let loose for a bit!” Venti cheered. “After all, we’ve been on a grind for a whole week!” 

Aether looked at the other members of 4NEMO. Suddenly, Jean walked into the studio. 

“Ah, Jean!” Venti greeted. “It’s good to see you.”
“So…” Jean looked at the Boggle on the floor and the pens and paper. From what she saw, she immediately knew the situation. “Count me in.” 

The group cheered loudly. 

 

After a few rounds of Boggle, the group began their choreography practice. Despite Jean being their manager, she was also a good dancer, so she helped with the choreography they were assigned. The music pulsed, the idols danced. And without any problems whatsoever. And suddenly…

KRRRRRIIIINGGG! KRRRRRRRIIIIING! 

The members of 4NEMO looked around the room in confusion. 

“Sorry guys, but I’ve gotta take this.” Jean apologised. She took out her phone, answered it, and stood in the corner of the room. Kazuha turned the music off since he was the nearest to the speaker. Despite not having any context, they tried to listen in. 

“Hello?” 

“Ah, yes. It’s Jean Gunnhildr.” 

“Yes, I am 4NEMO’s manager.” 

The mention of 4NEMO sent shivers down the idols’ spines. 

“What?!” 

“Yes, I will be right there.” 

“The talents have to be sent home for the day?” 

“I see. I will get my sister to help out.” 

“Thank you.” 

“Yes, yes.” 

“I will be there.” 

Jean got off the phone. 

“Jean?” Xiao asked. “Is something the matter?” 

Jean turned back. “You are all dismissed for the day. I have an important meeting that involves all the managers. I will need you all to stay at a certain location before my sister picks you guys up.” 

“Wait, what’s happening?!” Kazuha asked, panicked. 

“Something came up with one of the talents under Celestia Entertainment. But don’t worry. None of you are at fault.” Jean replied, a ghost of a smile on her face. “But, you need to go. I will see you tomorrow.” 

The idols looked at each other. 

“Alright then, we’ll see you tomorrow.” Aether said. He turned to the others and motioned to the door. “Come on, let’s get our stuff and go.” 

 

“So...today is a pretty busy day for me…” Barbara admitted, speaking to the Chief. “So, um, you know…” 

Eula looked at her with a confused stare. 

“You know my sister is 4NEMO’s manager, right?'' the twin-tailed girl giggled, “And she told me to take care of them…” 

“Wait, wait, wait.” Xinyan said, waving her hands, “Your sister is 4NEMO’s MANAGER?!” 

Barbara nodded. “Yeah. The talents have an important thing to take care of, so they will be in my care for today…” 

Eula looked at Barbara. 

“I suppose you can take the day off.” Eula sighed. “But make sure you’re back tomorrow.” 

Barbara squeed. “Thank you, Chief!” 

“Are you sure it’s not Barbara taking a day off to simp?” Aloy sighed, looking at the duo from her desk. 

“Well, her sister is actually the manager …” Sucrose laughed in reply. 

“Anyways, we should probably go for lunch. We have a long day to go!” Xinyan smiled, standing up. “Last one to Good Hunter is a rotten egg!” 

Aloy instantly took to the door, as if she was a cheetah. Meanwhile, Albedo was strolling with Sucrose and Xinyan was the equal to a speeding car. 

 

“So, guys!” Xinyan slammed her hands on the table. “Lunch on me!” 

Aloy tilted her head in skepticism. “Wait, why?” 

“Hey now, can’t I treat y’all just because I feel like it?” Xinyan asked, dumbfounded. 

“If you’re treating us to anything in general, either because you’re really happy or something happened.” Aloy replied. “No inbetween, according to Barbs.”

Sucrose and Albedo looked at Xinyan, as if they were telling her to fess up. 

“Fine, fine!” Xinyan threw her hands into the sky. “It’s in honour of the rock sugar couple. I remembered that Albedo left his wallet at home,” Xinyan paused as Aloy cracked up and Albedo yelled at the ginger, “,so I didn’t want to let him suffer.” 

“Since you’re treating…” Sucrose started, “Can you get us…”
Xinyan looked at her friend earnestly. “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it all.” 

Sucrose took the menu in her hands. “Can you get us a Cold Cut Platter, a Crab, Ham and Veggie Bake, a serving of Cream Stew, a plate of Mint Salad and a plate of Sunshine Sprat and Sticky Honey Roast?” 

Xinyan froze. Aloy sighed. 

“Xinyan, I deeply pity your wallet.” Aloy admitted. “I don’t know if this is just me, but I think they’re ordering for a mukbang .”   

Xinyan was already sweating. She turned to Aloy. “So, Aloy...what do you want?” 

The girl hesitated for a minute. “I’ll have a Fisherman’s Toast.” 

“I’m not treating you guys again.” Xinyan groaned, her eyes focusing on Albedo and Sucrose. 

 

“So first of all.” Aloy started, “I am very amazed at how you two polished everything off the plates. Do you guys have blackholes for stomachs or something?” 

Albedo giggled. “Yes and no. We actually skipped our breakfast.” 

“YOU WHAT?!” Aloy and Xinyan gasped. “You skipped your breakfast?!” 

“Yes, we had no time…” Sucrose admitted, wiping her mouth. 

“Don’t tell me you two overslept…” Xinyan sighed, forking out some Mora to pay for the food. She turned to the waitress with the group’s giant check. “Here’s the money… I’m broke now…” 

“...Yep, we feel bad now.” Albedo and Sucrose said, as reality hit them.

 

“So, since you guys are my sister’s friends…” Barbara started, her arms full of chips and snacks. The members of 4NEMO were seated on one of the couches in Barbara’s 2LDK* apartment. The boys (and Venti) looked at Barbara quizzically, as if they were confused children staring at their caretaker pretending to be a cartoon character. With a crunch, Barbara set down the bags of chips and snacks on the coffee table. 

“Whoa!” Venti gasped, “That’s a lot of chips.” 

“We could do a mukbang with all this.” Kazuha noted, turning to Barbara. “Do you, by chance, have any sauce or whatever?” 

“Sorry, I don’t have any…” Barbara sighed. She then plopped into an armchair perpendicular to the couch. “So! You know I am a big fan of you guys, right?” 

“Oh, you are?” Aether asked. “Well, we’re okay with autographs and whatnot…” 

“Yeah, yeah!” Venti agreed. “Also,” Venti popped open a bag of chips with a pop, then popped a chip into their mouth. “These are seriously some delicious chips. Xiao! Do you want some?” 

Xiao looked at the window and shook his head. “Sorry, I can’t. Diet restrictions.” 

Venti groaned. “Oh, come on! Loosen up a little…” 

“Are you the only fan of 4NEMO is your friend group, or…” Kazuha asked. 

Barbara let out a tired, dejected sigh. “It seems I’m the only one. And it also seems like one of my friends really hates you guys.” 

“Wait, they do?!” Aether, Venti and Xiao gasped. “Tell us more!” 

“Well…” Barbara fiddled with her fingers, “One of my friends under the police internship, her name’s Aloy by the way, yelled at me a few days ago. All because I wanted to see you guys at the shooting for Feiyun Nine-Nine.” 

Venti chuckled. “Well, she really seems like the strict one...any reasoning why?” 

“Aloy said something about the safety of the talents, the risks of the camera equipment collapsing…” Barbara stated, “Y’know.” 

“She seems like the person who cares for others more than herself. I bet she planned on going there to ensure everyone was safe; would that be something Aloy would do?” Xiao said, brushing away his hair. “Well, what would I know? We’ve only heard about her from your little story.” 

Now that Barbara thought about it, Aloy initially seemed like the person who would be extremely cautious about everything, but now that she saw the other side of the fence, and now that she knew that Aloy was the sole survivor of the Springvale accident...Barbara couldn’t help but feel bad. 

“Also, I feel like some parts of Aloy are...forced. Like she is wearing a mask of sorts.” Barbara noted. “Like, she acts like the tough one. And her humour feels forced sometimes.” 

“Hey, we’ve been through some trauma before, and some of us know people who have been through it themselves.” Kazuha explained, like a kind mother talking to her child. “There are some people who hide their true self behind a persona just to protect themselves.” 

 

After the day ended, the interns decided to walk down their own paths. Xinyan had to go for some band practice while Sucrose and Albedo were on another date with Eula spying on them, leaving Aloy alone. 

It was always like this, wasn’t it? She’d ask herself, only to find no answer. In the end, Aloy gave up on trying to cook and decided to get some WanminMart food again. Well, it wasn’t really her fault, wasn’t it? I mean, being her was...tiring at times. 

“...It’s mainly never your fault.” Barbara’s words echoed. 

“It’s not my fault…” Aloy remembered. But the survivor guilt was there. She couldn’t keep defending herself by saying she was innocent. As her father once said, she was her greatest judge, but even the greatest judges get corrupted over time like how all metal eventually rusts. 

And she was condemned as guilty until proven innocent. 

Even now, she didn’t know what really happened, or who was really at fault. 

Whose fault is it?  

“I don’t know.” 

It’s no-one’s fault.  

“...Probably.” 

And even so, Aloy knew that every path she walked led to an inevitable “goodbye”. 

It’s their fault.  

“Is that it?” 

It’s my fault. 

“Probably…” 

In the midst of her thoughts, she’d found herself walking up the stairs to her apartment on pure autopilot. She wished she was still in the past, where she would happily laugh and chatter with Rost, who was still there

“Even if you can’t change the past, you can still forge the future.” 

Those words from Eula…

They sent a shiver down her spine. 

What about the future? 

What about what will happen in the next few years?

What am I going to be?

But she decided to push these thoughts away to the very back of her head.

Unlocking the apartment door, she kicked off her shoes and stepped into the room. 

“Rost, I’m home.” Aloy said without thinking, the words dropping out without a thought.

Even if it was for a minute, she knew that she wasn’t truly alone. There was always hope. All she could hope was that wherever Rost was, he would be proud of her.  

“I see you left the door open.” 

Aloy jumped. She snatched a knife from the kitchen in her panic. 

“Who’s there?!” she demanded. 

And then a familiar figure popped into sight…

“Hu Tao?” 

Hu Tao smiled. “It’s good to see you again, Aloy.”

Chapter Text

“So...what’s the sudden intrusion about?” Aloy asked, “I mean…” 

“It’s related to Ganyu...and I wanted to catch up.” Hu Tao replied. “May I come in?” 

“Ah-sure, sure! I’ll get some drinks,” Aloy ran over to the fridge, “I remembered having some energy drinks in here…” 

As Hu Tao sat at one of the bar stools, Aloy set down two bottles of Adepti Dew on the table. 

“So, let’s cut straight to the chase. What’s about Ganyu?” Aloy asked, “Also, how do you know where I live?” 

“I asked one of the officers.” Hu Tao replied. “And...I’ve gotta tell you something. Something happened this afternoon, and you’ve gotta know about it.” 

 

“Keqing…” 

Keqing looked back. The blinds in the break room were closed, and it seemed dark despite the lights being on. In the hallway, she saw Hu Tao, Yanfei and Ningguang staring at her with piercing stares and flames in their eyes. 

“What...what’s going on?” Keqing asked, panicked. 

She stepped towards them, but Hu Tao slapped her in the face. 

Keqing reeled back, like a turtle retreating into the safety of its shell. She clutched her cheek as if it’d been set on fire. 

“Keqing, you mother-!” Hu Tao cried, tears streaming down her face. “Because of you, G-Ganyu may be dead.”

“Keqing, we’re super disappointed in you.” Yanfei said. “I took your side so you wouldn’t pick on me, but this is too far.” 

“What...what’s going on? Can you just tell me?!” Keqing screamed. She clutched the ends of her twintails. 

“We are not making this video thanks to the investigation, but because I’ve realised that she has gone too far.” a recorded voice spoke. 

The purple-haired young lady turned back, and saw…

Hu Tao. 

On Youtube. 

On Ningguang’s phone. 

Exposing the harsh reality of the demon in disguise, Keqing. 

“Keqing Yuheng has picked on Ganyu for as long as I could remember. She calls her rude insults I won’t mention on camera, and she once dunked her in the toilet bowl. She even framed her for pushing me down the stairs, but that was a lie. I actually tripped and fell, but don’t worry. I’m doing fine now.” the voice spoke. 

“Hu Tao…” Keqing gulped. 

“The reason why I believe Keqing has gone too far, is because something similar has happened to one of my old classmates, and a cop under the investigation. Her name is Aloy Nora. She was picked on a lot because of her love for Horizon Zero Dawn and video games, and the bullying went up to eleven after the death of her father. This caused her to nearly slit her neck. If it weren’t for me opening the classroom door, she would’ve been dead.” 

Keqing stared in horror. Hu Tao had tears in her eyes. Yanfei had an expression of disdain on her face. 

“Since the incident, I have decided to do my best to prevent this from happening again. Aloy nearly lost her life thanks to the people who picked on her in school, and I don’t want it to happen again . Especially to a person I look up to dearly, AKA Ganyu of L/YUE. And in my eyes, failing a life is the same as failing to be the pop idol I wanted to be.” 

“So-so that girl…” Keqing stammered, her mind racing. “The girl in the weird hoodie…” 

“That was the girl that nearly died thanks to people like you.” Hu Tao snapped, ice in her voice. 

“After what happened to her, I swore to myself this would never happen again on my watch. And knowing that Ganyu is out there, and” the voice made a sharp inhale, “I don’t even know if she’s alive or dead, and if she’s dead, it’s Keqing’s fault if it was suicide.” 

Ningguang stopped the video. 

“Keqing…” Hu Tao sobbed. “I used to look up to you, too. But...you’re no better than the people who nearly killed Aloy.” 

“As Ganyu said, ‘words can paint beauty, but they can also kill’.” Ningguang sternly spoke, “Because of this, we are considering terminating your contract and replacing you in L/YUE.” 

 

“Okay, why are you telling me all this?” Aloy asked, taking notes. 

“I’m going to help you.” Hu Tao replied. 

With a thud, Hu Tao realised that Aloy had dropped her bottle of Adepti Dew in pure shock.

“You-you what?” 

“I’m going to assist you in the investigation as much as I can.” Hu Tao took a sip of her Adepti Dew. “I’m willing to help you and the other cops on the case find Ganyu and bring the case to a close.” 

“If you’re going to help us, then I should be helping you in return…” 

“No, no! It’s fine.” 

“But...I’ll feel bad. Like I’m taking advantage of you…” 

“No, it’s okay. I’m willing to help you. Besides!” 

Hu Tao swallowed Aloy in a warm hug. 

“I’m happy you’re my friend, and I’m willing to do anything to help.” Hu Tao whispered. “If you have anything you want to let go, I’m here.” 

“Well...thanks.” 

 

“So, Chief. I need to call an emergency meeting.” Aloy started on the phone with Eula. “At my place, now. I have some information that might help.”

“Tell your boss I said hi!” Hu Tao yelled, from the other end of the room. 

“And...my ex-classmate says hi.” Aloy sighed. 

“So, you’re saying that Hu Tao from L/YUE will be willing to help us?” Eula asked. “I mean, not to say that we can’t trust her, but what is your relationship with her?” 

“We went to the same school and I was Aloy’s only friend!” Hu Tao yelled, loud enough for Eula to hear clearly. 

“...whatever she said.” Aloy agreed, “Yes, we went to the same school and stuff.” 

Eula was silent. “I’m going to call up the team. Stay where you are.” 

 

“SO FIRST OF ALL.” Sucrose yelled, trying to make sense of everything, “HU TAO IS ALOY’S CLASSMATE.” 

“Ex-classmate actually?” Aloy clarified, staring at the three cops (and two interns) perched on almost every surface in the apartment. Except for Aloy herself, who was crouched on the floor, cleaning up the spilt drink.

“And second of all, SHE’S WILLING TO HELP US?!” Sucrose gasped. “HOLY CRAP!!!” 

“Sucrose, calm down…” Albedo laughed, “Deep breaths, deep breaths.” 

“So, get to the point. What do you know?” Xinyan asked, “Tell us everything you know. Barbara’s recording.” 

Hu Tao nodded. She explained what happened with Ganyu, how Keqing really acted, and how she had a spare key to Ganyu’s house. 

“The spare key would be useful.” Eula acknowledged, “We will be heading to Ganyu’s to find more evidence tomorrow, so if you could come along…” 

“I’m willing to come along!” Hu Tao chirped.

“But even if we find Ganyu and everything returns to normal, it’s not really the end yet.” Barbara noted, “I mean, it’s about L/YUE returning to normal. It’s about their policies, their members, everything about them.” 

“So, if you guys want to crash here again…” Aloy started, with a tired sigh. 

Xinyan nodded. “We might as well move in here at this point.” 

 

“Xiao? Are you okay?” Aether asked. 

Aether’s house was normally peaceful. His sister was out with their adopted sibling, Paimon that night, so 4NEMO decided to come over. They had a great day with Barbara, so after they got to Aether’s, they decided to just crash.

“Yeah, is Xiao alright?” Venti asked, gripping onto their beret. “He looks super pale…” 

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Xiao replied. He brushed away his bangs and walked over to the other end of the living room. 

Suddenly, his vision blurred. His head felt heavier than ten sacks of rice. His tummy ached. And then…

“XIAO!” 

Everything went dark.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Ganyu’s apartment in New Liyue Harbour…

“I can’t believe she lives in one of these apartments.” Xinyan gaped. The team’s eyes were fixed on the tall skyscraper, one of the priciest apartments in the city. It was so pricey, it would take around three years of school fees just to pay for a month’s rent! In the morning light, it seemed to glow like a Crystalfly. But they weren’t here to loiter around. They had a job to do. 

As the group approached the entrance, they were stopped by an angry, old man. 

“Excuse me!” he said in his old, grouchy voice, “No highschoolers on the premises!” 

“We’re here on official matters.” Eula said, sternly. She pulled out her ID, and motioned for everyone to do the same. “New Teyvat Police Force. The highschoolers are with me.”   

“B-but…” The old man was stunned. “The rule still stands! No highschoolers!” 

“Excuse me, we’re on an internship?” Xinyan asked. “Also, we won’t cause any problems. We promise!” 

The old man groaned. However, a young man, presumably the receptionist, came out of the apartment at the right time. 

“Excuse me,” the receptionist said, “Unless these highschoolers live here, they have no entry to the premises. There was an incident where this apartment was vandalised by kids like these, and…” The receptionist fiddled with their hands. 

Eula turned to her team. “Change of plans, everyone. The interns have no entry to the apartment, and so is Hu Tao.” 

Hu Tao retorted, “But, I live there!” 

“Yo, ‘Tao. Aren’t you a senior or something?” Aloy asked. 

“Aloy? But I thought you’re going to graduate next year…'' Hu Tao craned her head to her friend, but she just shook her head. 

“I’m retaking my junior year.” Aloy admitted. “After what happened, I only managed to attend three weeks out of a whole year, to the extent of missing important tests and assignments.” 

“And you’re transferring to…” Hu Tao’s gaze fell to Barbara and Xinyan. 

“Yep, I’m their future classmate.” 

“Anyways!” Eula clapped her hands. “Since the interns have no entry, me, Sucrose and Albedo will enter. Hu Tao lives here, no?” 

“Yes, she lives here.” The receptionist said, “She has an apartment on the seventh floor.”  

“Okay, so I have a plan.” Eula nodded. “Aloy, Barbara and Xinyan, you will head to Celestia Entertainment. The three of you need to get information about Ganyu and anything that is deemed important. Sucrose, Albedo and Hu Tao will stay here to search the apartment. I will follow the interns along just in case the same thing happens here.” 

The team nodded in agreement. 

“If all is clear, let’s get going!” Eula ordered. Within seconds, the seven of them split into their two groups and took off. 

 

Ganyu’s apartment was on the eleventh floor, and according to Hu Tao, it was 11-5. Since Hu Tao had a key, she unlocked the door and let the cops in. Instantly, they were greeted with an open view of the whole harbour. Despite the apartment being a studio, it was much fancier than Aloy’s. But if they were to compare Ganyu and Aloy’s apartment, the latter would win just because it had a PS5. The furniture was sleek and tidy, the kitchen counter was barren, and when the team ran up the stairs to the loft, they found that the little bedroom was as messy as they thought it would be. I mean, some things would never change, would it? 

“Okay, let’s split up.” Sucrose started. “I’ll check the bathroom and kitchen. Albedo will cover the loft and Hu Tao will do the living room. Also, how big is this thing?” 

“Large, as far as I know.” Hu Tao replied. “Despite me living here, I actually chose to live in the smaller units.” 

“I see.” Albedo nodded. “Let’s get started, then.” 

 

Celestia Entertainment’s headquarters was in a towering skyscraper in New Inazuma City. Just like the apartment, it reflected the light of the sun like a moon in the night sky. Despite being in Inazuma, Barbara was seasick since they had to board a ferry to Narukami Island. 

Which was pretty ironic since Barbara used to be in the swim team, according to Xinyan. 

“Chief Officer Eula Lawrence. We are on official business.” Eula stated, showing her ID. “These three interns are with me.” 

“May I have their names, please?” The receptionist, a short, young Inazuman lady with a tanuki hoodie, asked sleepily. 

“The ginger-haired girl is Aloy Nora, the girl with the twindrills is Barbara Pegg and the dark-skinned one with the twin buns is Xinyan Lin.” 

“I see…” The receptionist stifled a yawn. “I’ll get Yoimiya to handle this--” 

“Oh! You guys are here early!” a bright, bubbly girl gasped. Her blonde hair was messily tied in a ponytail and she wore an oversized sweater with one of the sleeves sliding off. She put a peace sign to her face. “I’m Yoimiya, Naganohara Yoimiya!” 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Eula showed her ID to Yoimiya and urged the interns to do the same. “We are from the New Teyvat Police Force.” 

Yoimiya laughed nervously. “Oki doki! Let me show you the way...you’re headed to ask the talents and managers a few questions, so let’s make haste~” 

As Yoimiya led them on, she skipped through the halls like a little child in a candy store. 

“So,” Xinyan started, “Are you a part of any group, or…” 

“I’m the lead singer in the new group, Inazuman Innovation!” Yoimiya chattered. “I’m in a group with Ayaka, Kokomi and this girl who calls herself the Raiden Shogun. She’s super cool though!” 

“That sounds nice.” Aloy replied. 

“Mhm! I really wanted to be an idol since I was little--” 

“Ah, there you girls are.” a voice said, piercing through the cheery atmosphere Yoimiya tried to create. Craning her neck, Yoimiya met Jean, 4NEMO’s manager. 

“J-Jean! Hello…” Yoimiya stepped back. 

“Hi, sister!” Barbara waved. 

The group expected Jean to wave back or even smile, but then she slapped Barbara in the face. 

“Wait, what in the--” 

“Thanks to you, Xiao’s in the hospital!” Jean yelled. 

Aloy jumped in shock, and hid behind Eula like a wall. Yoimiya hid behind Eula as well. 

“Wha-what the…” Barbara stammered, “Why all this all of a sudden?” 

“Thanks to your irresponsibility, Xiao is in the hospital. Not only is our progress delayed, the other members are panicking!” Jean yelled. Her voice attracted the attention of other people passing by. 

“Jean...I--” 

“Hey, you might need to calm down…” Xinyan motioned to Yoimiya and Aloy. “You’ve scared the two of them.” 

Jean paused. “It’s Barbara’s fault though. That failure of a little sister was supposed to be a doctor, but she says she’s scared of blood. But I’m sure she’ll change her mind and be who her parents want that bitch to be.”  

“Hey, it’s her choice!” Eula yelled in defence. “If she’s scared of it, don’t force her!” 

“ENOUGH!” Aloy yelled. “Let’s not forget why we’re here in the first place! And…” She sighed, patting the paper file in her hands. “Please leave the family situation for home. There are people watching us and bet my Mora that I will see you on Tweeter soon.” 

“...fine.” Jean replied, muttering something under her breath. 

“I wanted to tell you that Xiao didn’t eat anything.” Barbara admitted. 

“He what?” 

“I offered him some chips and pizza. Everyone ate except him.” 

“Even Venti ate? Man, that kid has an appetite…” 

“Yeah. Xiao said something about diet restrictions.” 

Jean nodded. “So you were innocent.” 

“Yeah.” Barbara replied. 

“Now, onto the main topic of the day. Do you know anything about Ganyu and Keqing?” Eula reminded the team. 

“I’ll call up the group for an interview!” Yoimiya cheered, pulling her phone out. 

“So, how will everything go?” Xinyan asked. 

“Xinyan, you go to interview the Inazuman Innovations. Aloy will be doing a background check since she’s literally the Archon of Technology--” 

“Thanks, Chief.” Aloy said, deadpan. 

“And I’ll interview 4NEMO and their manager.” Eula finished. “Aloy will be in mission control for today.”  

“Gotcha. Thank goodness I brought my laptop today.” Aloy headed off in another direction. “If you have anything, report to me immediately. And record the interviews!” 

 

Since Xiao was still in the hospital, the members of 4NEMO decided to video call Xiao for the interrogation. He looked much better than before; still pale but at least he had something to eat. And he had cat headphones. 

“Being an idol isn’t really that great.” Aether admitted. “Sure, Jean is a really caring manager. But we have long practice hours and diet restrictions...that’s troubling.” 

Eula nodded. “Why did you guess Ganyu would’ve run away?” 

“Initially, I would’ve guessed the diet restrictions.” Venti replied. Their statement caused the other members of 4NEMO, even the manager, to nod in agreement. 

“But now that we know the truth about Keqing, it changed our mind. Our current guess is an abusive work environment and some parts of the contract.” Xiao said. “I had an abusive manager before, and the contract I signed back then was...let’s say it was hell.” 

“Ningguang is that type of manager. She’s willing to sacrifice anything for the group’s success.” Jean sighed. “Even if it means resorting to dark measures like extorting the members for money.” 

 

Out of Yoimiya’s request, Xinyan had to interview the Inazuman Innovations in a cat cafe . Ayaka seemed pleased with the cats, however Raiden seemed pretty dejected because she wanted to pet shiba inus instead. 

“Yeah, and Ganyu seemed so quiet.” Yoimiya chattered. “She always plays with her words. She reminds me of Kazuha, but she’s a girl with beautiful blue hair.” 

“Agreed.” Ayaka nodded. “She is always graceful and beautiful. And when people pick on others, it’s mainly out of spite or maybe they’re jealous.” 

Xinyan jotted down some notes as the girls’ coffee arrived. “Any guesses where Ganyu would go?” 

Yoimiya piped up. “I guess a desolated part of Liyue! She loves nature, so I guess she would go to the Mountains of the Adepti.” 

“You mean Jueyun Karst?” Ayaka asked, politely. Yoimiya nodded in agreement as she went on a long tangent on how everyone in New Inazuma City called it so. 

Kokomi spoke up, “But judging at how Ganyu might do it, I’m afraid she can’t survive in the wilds. She might go to another nation out of the reach of the police, Snezhnaya for example, or maybe a place out of reach from the police, like Dragonspine.” 

“But are you certain?” Raiden asked, sipping her tea. “Dragonspine is desolate. Nobody lives there.” 

“Um, my friend Aloy used to live there, but she moved out.” Xinyan clarified. 

“Oh!” Yoimiya gasped. “Is it the girl with the red hair and the cool hoodie?” 

Xinyan nodded. “Yep, that’s Aloy.” 

Yoimiya squealed. “She’s so cool! Just like a video game character! Was it Aaron, Albedo, Amber, Amy Rose…” 

“Aloy of the Nora Tribe.” the other three members of Inazuma Innovation said. 

“I guess it's a coincidence that they share a name.” Raiden guessed. “Her hair and eyes are natural, right?” 

Xinyan nodded. 

“I’d say that’s impressive. For a young lady like that to survive in ice and snow and still be standing today...I have confidence that Ganyu might be able to survive the mountains if she has the ability.” 

“Ei, you really are as elegant as they say.” Kokomi envied.  

“I-” Raiden’s words got caught in her throat. “Do not call me by that name in front of the public!” 

Everyone laughed as Raiden’s face turned red. 

“I mean,” Ayaka followed, “Isn’t Ganyu part Qilin? She’s literally a demigod.” 

“We can weigh our options, but those are our guesses.” Kokomi finished. 

 

After the interviews, the groups returned to the little table in the cafeteria. Aloy was seated at a table near a few vending machines, and as she tried to crack the code of Ganyu’s disappearance, she had brought around 5,000 Mora worth of snacks. After the group’s return, loud arguments and yells resounded. 

“Dragonspine?!” Eula gasped. “Do you know how dangerous it is?! The only person I know who survived it was Aloy!” 

“But what if she was in Snezhnaya?!” Barbara asked. “If that was the case, we’re useless! We won’t be able to get her back because the Fatui…” 

“But what about the mountains of Liyue? It’s also dangerous.” Xinyan weighed. “I had a friend who went there and his friend nearly fell to his death since it was super high…” 

“How about we try and get search teams in all three areas?” Aloy suggested. Everyone looked at her in shock. 

“But how are we going to get the Fatui to help?” Eula questioned, “Snezhnaya is the equal to an independent country!” 

“Then we ask.” Aloy replied, popping open a box of Popky. “One of my online friends has close ties to them, so he could ask. Besides, even the guys back in that icy land are concerned for Ganyu!” 

“Yeah, that’s one problem down.” Xinyan noted. “But what about Dragonspine?” 

“I could go there and search.” 

“Aloy, are you sure?” Eula asked. 

“I mean, Rost taught me how to survive in Dragonspine. But we moved out when I was 13 thanks to the Fatui.” Aloy sighed. “Those guys chased us outta Dragonspine and into Springvale...and…” 

Aloy paused. 

“Hey, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.” Barbara consoled. 

“Back on topic. What about the Stone Forest?” Eula asked. 

Xinyan gasped. “My friend knows a skilled mountaineer. I could ask her and her team to help out.” 

“So we all have teams on the case.” Eula nodded. “But how do we know for sure where Ganyu’s headed?” 

Silence fell on the group. However… 

KRRRIIIIING! 

Everyone looked at each other. 

KRRRIIIIING! 

“Sorry, that’s mine.” Aloy apologised, pulling her phone out. 

As she answered the phone, light discussion ensued. 

“Wait, Aloy has one of THOSE phones?!” Barbara gasped. 

Eula gaped in shock. “I may have an Ai-Phone, but Aloy might have a better phone than all of us combined.” 

“The Sam-Sung Galaxy Flip3 5G...she really is rich…” Xinyan muttered. 

Suddenly, Aloy stood up and began to pack up her laptop. 

“Aloy? What’s going on?!” Eula demanded. 

“Albedo told us to return to the apartment.” Aloy replied, looking up, “He found some incriminating evidence.” 

Chapter Text

“God dangit!” Aloy yelled, “My headphones keep cutting off! I swear, that stupid…” 

“Aloy, chill. Calm down.” Eula laughed, tapping her hands on the steering wheel. “You’re trying to connect your headphones to your phone, right?” 

Aloy nodded, a sour pout on her face. “And after I connect them, they keep cutting in and out…I thought Spotty Premium had good connection and stuff…” 

Since the car was stuck in a mini traffic jam, Eula decided to try and help. After all, the ferry was a bit late; it was stuck at the Harbour. 

“Okay, give me your phone.” Eula ordered. As soon as Aloy handed over her phone, Eula entered settings, BlueTooth options… “Aloy, what’s the name for your headphones?” 

“Um…it’s called Aloy’s Headset.” 

“It’s not there. Did you turn off your headphones?” 

Aloy gingerly checked the left cap of her headphones. “I turned it off. Friend on the Internet says “turn it off and on again”.” 

“Okay then, turn it on.” 

Aloy pressed and held the pause button. Upon a chime resounding, Aloy slipped the headphones on… “I heard the connect chime. Is it connected to my phone?” 

Eula checked, then shook her head. 

“God damnit!” Aloy craned her head to the back seat. “Guys, did my headphones-” 

Aloy froze. Eula tilted her head in confusion. 

“Aloy? Aloy Nora?” Eula poked Aloy’s cheek, trying to wake her up. 

No reply from the stunned intern. 

Eula sighed, then peeped into the back seat…

Eula sank back into her seat and sighed. “I don’t get paid enough for this. You okay?” 

Aloy shook her head. “I want to bleach my eyes. It was as bad as reading that one smut fanfic on the Archive…” 

“That bad, huh?” Eula laughed. 

Aloy nodded. “Between Horizon Aloy and some person called…” sigh “I forgot the name but it was a girl.” 

“There there…” Eula sighed. A loud groan came from the incoming ferry, prompting Eula to crane her head. “Everyone, get ready! The ferry is here!” 

As the ferry came to Ritou’s shore, the car was strapped on, and the two cops filed out. 

“Finally!” Aloy stretched in the sunshine. “I really hate being stuck in cars for a long time.” 

“Same here.” Eula craned her head. “What about Xinyan and Barbara?” 

Just as she said that, Xinyan and Barbara tumbled out of the car, with Xinyan pinning down Barbara onto the ferry’s floor. The two girls were scarlet in embarrassment. 

Aloy stifled a laugh. “Welcome back, lovebirds.” 

“What just happened?” Xinyan asked, panicked. 

“You two were making out in the back seat.” Eula replied. “Aloy even took a photo.” 

Barbara inhaled sharply. She pointed her finger at the ginger-haired girl. “Aloy of the Nora, delete that photo now, or I’m throwing your phone in the sea!” 

“Correction: Eula used my phone.” Aloy replied. 

Barbara turned to Eula. “Eula, I swear to Barbatos!” 

“But in all seriousness,” Xinyan said, hopping to her feet, “What was going on?!” 

“I have no idea!” Barbara laughed. 

Aloy sighed. “Please get a room next time, not trying to be rude.”

Barbara pulled out her phone while Xinyan was laughing behind her. As she opened Discord…

“EULA! DID YOU SHARE THE PHOTO ON DISCORD?!” 

“Now, that wasn’t me!” Eula replied. 

Barbara jolted. 

The ginger-haired intern chuckled. “Golly gee, look at the time…” 

“ALOY YOU SON OF A-!” 

“Barbara, no cussing!” Xinyan and Eula yelled. 

 

As soon as Eula and the interns reached New Liyue Harbour, they headed straight to Ganyu’s apartment, ignoring any pleas from residents telling the interns to get off the apartment. The three cops, three interns and Hu Tao were crowded around Ganyu’s PC. Sucrose scrolled through the document while Aloy, Hu Tao and Eula read through it. 

“This Word document is…you could say it’s Ganyu’s diary.” Sucrose explained. 

“This thing could be used as a lawsuit against Keqing at this point.” Aloy noted. Her gaze fell to the page count at the very corner of the screen, and she jumped. “Five hundred and forty-nine pages! Either she writes a ton or…” sigh “I have no idea at this point.” 

“If we were to print this out and bind it, it’d be as heavy as a super thick novel and…not that thick if we were to print it on normal A4 paper.” Eula hummed. “If we were to take this to court as evidence…” 

“And Ganyu even has a full-on plan on where she’s headed.” Albedo nodded. “Sucrose, give me the mouse.” 

Albedo scrolled down to one of the last paragraphs of the diary, then highlighted a good amount of a paragraph. 

“I could go to the Stone Forest, but it might be too risky.” Xinyan read, “My best bet is to head to Snezhnaya through Dragonspine. Who knows, I’ll camp there for a bit, then forge some new ID to become a Snezhnayan citizen.” 

“So Ganyu’s going to head to Snezhnaya?!” Hu Tao gasped. “I mean, it’s a good idea, but it’s going to be hard to make a new ID. Especially since Ganyu’s horns are one of a kind.” 

“Wait, it’s not a headband?” Sucrose and Aloy asked. 

Hu Tao looked at the two of them as if they said something weird. “Yeah, what else did you think it was? Ganyu never took her horns off.” 

“So what is our current plan?” Albedo asked. 

Eula said, “We head to Dragonspine.” 

“Tonight?” Barbara asked, dumbfounded. 

“Precisely.” 

“But some parts of Ganyu’s plan don’t make any sense.” Xinyan said. “Isn’t Snezhnaya the far part of Teyvat? If she was headed straight there, she could’ve just passed through the Chasm instead.” 

“The Chasm isn’t a viable place to pass through. Around five hundred years ago, some curse was placed on the land, and…I don’t know. But that’s what I know.” Sucrose replied. 

“Actually, there is a train from Mondstadt to Snezhnaya.” Aloy remembered, pulling out her phone. “All she needs to do is to get to the train terminal near Wolvendom and then she can transfer trains.” 

“I can see her route from the document. She’s planning to cut into Dragonspine from Liyue, then after camping there for a bit, she would have to pass the Dawn Winery and then reach the Wolvendom terminal. She can then head south to Snezhnaya.” Albedo explained.

“Now that Aloy mentions it, it could be an alternate route.” Hu Tao agreed. “But what about the Stone Forest?” 

“I have no idea.” Eula sighed. “Maybe she wanted to play a decoy.” 

“So, what’s the plan?” Hu Tao asked, taking out a notebook and pen. 

“Me, Albedo and Aloy will head to Springvale tonight.” Eula explained. “Xinyan and Hu Tao will get in contact with the mountain team, AKA Xinyan’s friends, and try to search the Stone Forest. I’ll get Barbara and Sucrose to get in touch with the Fatui to try and prevent Ganyu from entering. In the meantime, I’ll dispatch more cops to try and catch Ganyu at the Dawn Winery and at the Terminal. One thing is for certain though: If Ganyu leaves the Terminal, then we can’t do anything except ask the Snezhnayan diplomats to stop her. If not, all hope is lost.” 

The group was silent for a moment. 

“Time isn’t on our side.” Albedo agreed, breaking the cloud of silence. 

 

“So, let’s get going.”   

Chapter Text

Back at the apartment, bags were being packed and calls were being made. As late afternoon sunshine passed into the studio, plans were weaved together like scarves made of wool. 

“So, here’s the plan.” Eula said, on a video call. “Now that we have contact with the Fatui and we have the mountain team, we’re going to deploy additional cops.” 

“Additional cops?” Aloy asked, stuffing a winter jacket into her duffle bag. “You mean we’re also going to put others on the team?” 

“Yeah. We’re putting Barbara and Sucrose on the Dragonspine team. Xinyan and Hu Tao will be with the mountaineers.” 

“I got into contact with Shenhe just now.” Xinyan announced while a cat leapt onto her head. “Shenhe’s team will be searching the Stone Forest starting at six. Also, put your tail down, Ali! I can’t see a thing!” 

“Nice cat, Xinyan.” Albedo chuckled, laughter resounding throughout the call. 

“So for the Dragonspine team, where and how are we gonna meet up?” Barbara asked. 

“We meet up at my place in fifteen.” Aloy replied, her voice strained because she was attempting to stuff another jacket in her bag. “Eula, you bring the truck, I’ll bring…as…MANY WINTER JACKETS I HAVE!” 

“Aloy Nora, travel light.” Eula reprimanded. “I appreciate your concern, but I saw you stuff ten winter jackets into your bag.” 

Aloy huffed. “Well, Barbara has no jacket!” 

“Then only bring two or three spares. Don’t overstuff your bag. You’re not going to move back to Dragonspine or something.” Eula sighed. 

Sucrose asked, “Aloy, how many winter jackets do you have, anyways?” 

“Twenty-five.” Aloy replied, her voice strained because she was taking out six of the jackets. The jacket stack was so tall, it covered her face. 

“Holy mother of Rex Lapis.” Xinyan gasped. “She has the most winter jackets out of all of us.” 

“Back on topic, Xinyan and Hu Tao will be the technical control for the mountaineers.” Eula coughed. “For the Dragonspine team, Sucrose will be the tech support, and Barbara will be coming to the mountain because she knows first-aid.” 

“Wait, wait, wait.” Sucrose asked, “Besides Aloy, do you guys have any experience on scaling a mountain?!” 

“I literally have a little hideout in the mountains.” Albedo replied. “And Eula comes here on a daily basis.” 

“Alrighty!” Xinyan nodded, hoisting her backpack. “We’re going to start the operation now. Good luck to everyone!” 

“In the event we will never meet again…” Aloy looked away, bashfully, “Thank you for these few days together. It was really fun. If I die, please pass my Playstation to Xinyan.” 

“No fair!” Barbara laughed. “Also, I’m certain we will meet again. Just have a bit of hope in your heart~” 

“Before we all log off and commence the mission: let’s take a last photo together.” Sucrose said. “Everyone smile…I've screenshotted!” 

“Alright, let’s get going!” Eula announced. “The quicker we move, the higher our chances of success. Good luck, officers!” 

The call ended. 

Before everyone stepped out of the doors to the mission, they took a deep breath. Hoisting their bags, they were filled with fear and a sort of readiness to save the day. 

“I guess this is it.” Barbara muttered, clutching the strap of her sling-on bag.  

“My twelve years of training won’t go to waste now.” Aloy nodded, eyes glinting with determination. 

“Ganyu, hold on just a little longer. We’ll save you.” Xinyan promised, hope in her voice. 

“We’re going to save you. So please…” Sucrose and Albedo prayed silently. 

“Officers, don’t fail me now.” Eula whispered. 

With a nod, they stepped out into the streets, ready for action.

 

“Whoa! That’s an awesome truck you’ve got!” Barbara gasped. 

Eula had pulled up in front of Aloy’s apartment block with a black tundra truck and had picked up Albedo and Sucrose in the process. 

“Thanks.” Eula nodded, motioning to the trunk. “Put your bags in the back and get in. We’ve got to get to Springvale by seven.” 

With a few thumps, the bags were loaded, and the two interns buckled up in the back seat. The seats were surprisingly comfy, and a cool breeze swept from the air conditioning. 

“Are we ready?” Albedo asked, peering into the back seat. 

“Ready for anything!” Barbara replied. 

“I-I brought my laptop, don’t worry!” Sucrose stammered. 

“Then let’s go, time is against us.” Eula said. 

 

“Is everyone ready?” Shenhe asked. 

Shenhe was a tall lady with snow-white hair and pale eyes. She was in mountaineering gear, and stood in control of over a hundred people. Xinyan was stunned at the crowd; she’d never seen a larger team of mountaineers. 

“Everyone, if you don’t find Ganyu, it’s okay.” Hu Tao announced. “If you find her, let us know.” 

“And Hu Tao will treat y’all to dinner!” Xinyan added. 

Shenhe jumped in shock. “Are you sure?! Y-you know…” 

“They need good food so they will have the energy.” Hu Tao justified. “Also, it’s cheap, don’t worry.” 

“Money isn’t the main problem here!” Shenhe yelled. “The main issue is if we don’t find Ganyu.” 

“If we don’t find her here, it’s safe to assume she’s in Dragonspine.” Xinyan announced. “From what we know, Ganyu may flee here and her diary may be lying.” 

“So,” Shenhe turned to the crowd of mountaineers. “Is everyone ready!” 

“READY!” The crowd roared. 

“Good luck, everyone!” Hu Tao cheered. “We’ll be here for technical support~” 

Xinyan said, “And report anything you find to us immediately!”  

 

Despite the truck leaving at forty-five to six, they reached Springvale within ten minutes, despite the jam. Because the truck had a siren, everyone made way for them as if the Prime Minister was passing or something of the sort. As soon as they reached the little town, they got a hotel room and immediately rested up. 

“This is the best hotel room I’ve seen in my life!” Barbara gasped. “The pristine white walls, the comfy mattresses…EEK!” 

“Don’t forget why we’re here!” Eula reminded the group. 

“Speaking of which, what’s the plan?” Albedo asked. 

“We take off for Dragonspine in the morning.” Eula replied. “We use this night to prepare.” 

“Since we’re preparing,” Aloy started, “Should we eat something? I brought some snacks.” 

“Actually…” Sucrose laughed. “I think we should order some takeout.” 

Eula nodded. “Great idea. What does everyone want?” 

“Good Hunter!” Barbara and Albedo yelled. 

“I eat anything and everything.” Aloy said. “Food is food.” 

“I’m ordering from Good Hunter.” Eula announced. “Y’all get ready, I’ll call you when the food arrives.” 

Since they were in Springvale for a rescue mission, everyone was caught up in their own thing, ensuring that everything was ready. 

On one of the beds, Aloy was checking that she had enough gear to scale the mountain. 

On another bed, Sucrose and Albedo were checking statistics, while also flirting every now and then. 

And on the third bed, Eula was making phone calls. 

Leaving Barbara alone. 

Scooting over to the bed nearest the window, Aloy was checking if she’d packed enough jackets and heating bottles. Barbara was puzzled; if Eula had packed all the equipment back at the truck, why was Aloy checking? 

“So…” Barbara started. “What are you doing?” 

“A double-check.” Aloy replied, sifting through the duffle bag. “I’m afraid that we didn’t bring any equipment to defend ourselves.” 

“Wouldn’t Eula have brought them all?” 

“Well, I brought some spare equipment. I brought my bow and some arrows…” 

“I think you’re over-prepared.” 

Aloy jolted. “Hey, what if Ganyu got attacked by Hillichurls? Or what if anyone else did? Hey, it’s way better to save others together with Ganyu herself.”   

Since she didn’t understand half of her motives, Barbara sulked. “Fine…” 

Barbara decided to not disturb Albedo and Sucrose. They were busy, after all. I mean, it was a death wish to distract a couple. It happened to Jean and her ex, and because of that…Barbara shook her head, shoving the memory to the back of her head. 

So she decided to ask Eula about the plan. 

 

“The plan?” Eula asked. “We’ve got a change in it.” 

“Wait, what?” Barbara asked, curious and concerned. 

Eula sighed. “It would be much easier to search in the morning, but there’s a storm going to hit Dragonspine in the morning. So our best bet is to go tonight.” 

“Well, I see your point, unlike Aloy…” 

Eula hummed. “Well, she’s determined to save as many people as possible. So it’s understandable if she brought extra things.” 

“Yeah.” Barbara sighed. “Aloy brought an archery set and all.” 

“That’s good, though! Even though it’s been a thousand years since the fall of Khaenri'ah…” 

Suddenly, Eula’s phone rang. 

“Sorry, but I’ve got to take this.” Eula apologized as she stood up.

 

“Okay, team. We’ve got to move out after this.” Eula announced at dinner. She’d ordered some Calla Lily Seafood Soup and bolognese pasta from Good Hunter, and the interns ate them out of the packaging. 

“Wait, what?” Sucrose gasped. 

“There’s a storm going to hit Dragonspine tomorrow. So we’ve got to get moving.” Eula said, taking a spoonful of pasta. 

“So where are we headed?” Albedo asked. 

“Wyrmrest Valley. It’s the closest to the Dawn Winery. It should be a quick one.” 

“I see.” Aloy nodded. “I used to stay nearby, so I have a bit of experience with us.” 

“Any reports from Xinyan?” Barbara asked. 

Eula sighed. “None yet. They’re still searching the Stone Forest. I got a call from the camp near Dragonspine just now, and they’re telling us to get to the mountain ASAP.” 

“So the Adventurer’s Guild is finally useful!” Barbara cheered. 

“Okay, let’s get our food done, and we’ll head up the mountain.” Eula said. “After this, put all the containers in the plastic bags and throw any leftover soup into the drain. Throw any crab shells into a separate plastic bag and wash your hands. Then, we’ll gear up and get going…” 

 

Meanwhile, at a little tent near Wyrmrest Valley…

A young lady with goat horns and blue hair stared into the horizon. Her bags were packed, and she was ready to go. She’d made it look like someone had thrashed the camp she was in. And her heart was filled with regret. 

“Those stupid people…” she muttered, “Why would they bring me back? Just to torment me? I’m not a plaything anymore.” 

As she made her way into the snow, she let out a sigh. 

“I’ll get out of here, and then I’m going to be free.”

Chapter Text

“Winter jacket, check!” Barbara noted, patting the comfy and very puffy blue jacket. “Mountain equipment, check! We’ve got everything!” 

“Good to know.” Eula nodded.      

“Weather forecast?” Aloy asked. 

“Predicting heavy snow. The snow is going to be heavy, so it’s best to go on foot once you’ve reached the Snow-Covered Path.” Sucrose replied. 

“I’ll leave the car at the campsite.” Albedo nodded. “That way, if anyone tries to steal the car, at least the Adventurer’s Guild can stop them.” 

“Are you sure?” Eula asked. “I mean…” 

“Little do you know, I can use a sword pretty well.” 

“Then, let’s get going!” Barbara insisted. “Who knows, she could be heading out of Dragonspine now!” 

Eula asked, “Sucrose, are you okay being alone in the hotel room?”

Sucrose nodded. 

“Alright, let’s head off.” Aloy said, hopping into the car. “And let’s be quick!” 

After waving good-bye, Albedo got into the vehicle as Eula drove off. 

 

Dragonspine was a beautiful mountain. The snow glistened in the moonlight as snowflakes danced and chattered. Wilted trees, void of life, were spread out across the plain, dusted with snow. A cold winter breeze swept through, punching the cops in the face as they got out of the warm car. 

“Should we run?” Albedo asked. “After all, we’re just on flat ground. We’re not going to scale the peaks or something.” 

“We can run, but we’ve got to change into snow boots first.” Aloy instructed. “The last time I ran in the snow with no boots, I nearly broke my arm.” 

“Everyone, put on your goggles.” Eula said, handing pairs out to the police officers. “I don’t want anyone having snow blindness.” 

“Gear up, everyone.” Aloy instructed. “And maybe I should lead since I have the most experience.” 

“I’ll be behind you.” Eula reassured the intern. 

“Thanks.” 

 

Meanwhile, in the Stone Forest…

“Has anyone found anything?” Xinyan asked, on a walkie-talkie. 

“Nothing yet.” a member of the team replied. 

“Oh, come on!” Shenhe yelled. “If there’s nothing, then why don’t we just go home at this point?!” 

“Shenhe, chill!” another member of the mountaineering team laughed. “We will find something soon enough.” 

“We’ve searched every nook and cranny! And Ganyu is nowhere to be seen!” 

“Shenhe, I think we found something.” 

“FINALLY!” Shenhe whooped into the walkie-talkie. 

“But…it’s not something good.” 

 

It was said that someone with adeptal powers was swift and strong. And Ganyu was proven that fact when she made a break for it, trying to get to the warm side of Mondstadt to head to the terminal. Animals made way for her in fear. Clad in her jacket and armed with her backpack, she sprinted as quickly as she could, hoping to get across before anyone caught her. Despite her jacket not retaining much heat, she forced herself to endure the freezing cold. 

However, a roar resounded. 

Craning her head, Ganyu saw a Frostarm Lawachurl heading her way. 

Something in her head clicked. 

Run. 

The giant horned monster looked like an angry yeti on the loose. It threw Cyro Slimes at Ganyu, who narrowly dodged them. Leaping up trees with utmost agility, she attempted to dodge the shards of ice scattered by the beast. However…

A slice from behind, and a burst of gold. A flaming arrow shot the Lawachurl, together with a strong strike from a claymore. As the monster fell to the ground, Ganyu saw four police officers in what seemed like an AOE summoned by a Solar Isotoma. 

Aloy laughed, “I knew dipping the arrowheads in gasoline and setting them on fire was a great idea!” 

“Aloy, you would have burnt yourself!” Albedo panicked, checking the intern’s fingers. “Are you burnt? Are you okay?” 

“Oh, no, I’m fine…” 

Ganyu stared at the police officers, perplexed. 

“What is even going on here?” Ganyu asked. 

Everyone turned to her. 

“We’re here to bring you back.” Eula said. 

Barbara asked, “Wait. Why did you have to be--” 

“Why would you bring me back?” Ganyu asked. 

Everyone froze in silence, as if the piercing snow of Dragonspine caused their whole bodies to turn to ice. 

Suddenly, Albedo’s walkie-talkie vibrated. He picked up the line. 

“Albedo, reporting.” Albedo announced.  

“Mister Albedo! Bad news!” Sucrose said, on the line. “Xinyan found something; and it’s not pretty.” 

“Guys,” Xinyan started, in her accent, “It’s bad. Really bad.” 

 

“Shenhe’s team found Ganyu’s corpse.” 

Chapter Text

The report hit like a truck. 

Ganyu.

Dead in the Stone Forest.

So how was she alive in Dragonspine? 

“Ganyu…” Aloy started, breaking the silence, “You-you’re dead? Then how the hell are you here?!” 

“I-it could be a ghost…” Barbara chattered, mainly from the freezing cold of the snow. 

“Barbara, ghosts don’t exist. There’s got to be a way she’s still here!” 

Ganyu sighed. “I wanted to fake my death in the Stone Forest so I could escape undetected. I left a replica of my bag and jacket, and the corpse…” 

The four officers were stunned. 

“Ganyu, even if you get to Snezhnaya…” Eula started. 

“Yeah, yeah. I know.” Ganyu let out a dry laugh. “They’ll still catch me here. Why do you guys care? They’ll just hurt me again.” 

“We’ve made sure it will not happen again.” Aloy reassured, “Keqing is getting expelled from L/YUE. The group will also undergo some drastic changes.” 

Ganyu pondered. If Keqing really was getting fired, and things would get better…

“Even if you run away, these problems will catch up to you.” Albedo said, snapping Ganyu out of her daze. “And if you think you’re alone, you’re not. Look, Aloy here has been bullied. And she nearly took her own life. And there are many others who are just like you.” 

“And I promise, things will get better. There are people who are willing to listen. There are people who are willing to help. And there are people who love you for who you are.” Barbara finished, a smile on her face. 

Again, Ganyu was deep in thought. The unnerving silence of the mountains seemed like it would last an eternity. What was a few minutes felt like hours. 

“I’ll return with you.” Ganyu nodded.

The officers cheered. 

“But on one condition…” 

 

The next day…

“Ganyu Sinae has been found and is now back in the safety of New Liyue Harbor.” A newscaster announced. “Reports last night indicate that the young superstar was found in Dragonspine, trying to flee to Snezhnaya to perform pseudocide. However, the police officers from the 69th Precinct of the New Teyvat Police Department found her and convinced her to return home. We are now at a press conference, live, with the three police officers and the three interns involved in the case…” 

As cameras clicked and flashed, the three interns were trying to smile on stage, despite the fact they were dead-tired. Xinyan stayed up until five in the morning to perform an autopsy on the decoy corpse (It wasn’t part adeptus, it was just a normal dead human corpse), Barbara had chugged twelve bottles of cold latte and Aloy, despite having the most stamina out of all of them, was on the verge of collapsing on stage, having to slap her cheeks every few seconds. 

“Eula…” Xinyan groaned, “Can we go home now?” 

“We’re almost done, wait!” Eula hissed, then turned back to the crowd. 

“Uhm…” Barbara laughed, “I think Aloy’s too tired already…she fell asleep.” 

Sucrose sighed. “See? I told you to not bring the interns. You know it’s serious when Aloy is too tired to even stand.” 

Eula face-palmed. “I thought Aloy had the stamina of a million Statue of the Sevens.” 

“Yeah, but she’s passed out. On Barbara’s shoulder.” Albedo pointed. 

“Yeah, um let’s end the conference here.” Xinyan laughed. “We’re in deep need of sleep.” 

Eventually, Eula ended the press conference and headed back to the Precinct’s headquarters. They dropped the interns back home first so they could rest up, giving them allowance for one day off. As soon as they headed back to their office, Sucrose and Eula started working on the request Ganyu had made. 

“Mister Sinae…” Sucrose started, “He’s been dead for a long time. And his wife recently died. We have no idea how, since the files are blank.” 

“This is an issue.” Eula pondered. “I’d call Aloy here, but she’s dead tired and she may, for the first time, be clueless. Also, she may be smart most of the time, but…” the Chief let out a tired sigh. “She may have solved the Murder of Wuwang Hill, but no-one knows who died.” 

“Should we call in Xinyan or Barbara?” 

“No. Again, they’re tired. Barbara is good at getting the truth out of people, and Xinyan is good at chasing criminals. In the group of three, Aloy’s the brains, Xinyan is the brawn and Barbara is the empath. And if the brains aren’t available, then how will the other two members function? It’s like trying to operate a computer without a motherboard.”   

Sucrose nodded. “Yeah, that is a problem. Especially since each one of them is held back by something.” 

 

“Xin! We’re so proud of you!” Xinyan’s mother, a tall lady with dark hair and skin like her daughter, cheered. “I knew the police internship would do you good.” 

Xinyan laughed. “Yeah, I guess so.” 

“Just a few months ago, you were the mischievous kid in school…look at you now!” Xinyan’s father, a tall and tough man who also had dark skin and hair like his wife and daughter, chuckled. “We’re super proud of you, Xinyan Lin. To the extent that…” 

Xinyan gasped as her father brought out a box wrapped in gift paper. 

“Wait, wait, wait!” Xinyan laughed. “It isn’t Christmas yet!” 

“Yeah, he plans to keep it under the tree for now.” Xinyan’s mother said. “But a little spoiler for you, it’s something you really asked for.” 

Tapping her foot on the ground, Xinyan racked her head for a guess. 

“A new guitar.” 

“I thought your old one worked well.” 

“A PS5. Oh, wait, Aloy already has one. Maybe…” 

Xinyan was thinking so hard, it felt like her brain would explode. 

“GAH! I GIVE UP! I’ll just wait until Christmas, then…” 

Xinyan’s parents giggled with their daughter with glee. 

“Since it’s a special day, we’re going for a steamboat dinner.” Xinyan’s dad announced. “You may invite the other interns-the more the merrier.” 

With a cheerful nod, Xinyan squeezed her parents in a hug. But before everything, her mother instructed Xinyan to take a nap since she knew her daughter was dead-tired, and needed rest. 

 

Two in the afternoon, Aloy’s apartment. 

It was all quiet. After Aloy got dropped back home, she quickly took a shower and then went to sleep in some “today is a gaming day” clothes; a tank top and a pair of shorts. It felt like she was sleeping in clouds, with birds fluttering throughout the sky, and a little ringing-wait, ringing?

Aloy jolted awake with the realization that her phone was ringing. In her panic, she threw a stuffed shark at it, only for it to bounce onto the floor and her phone to inch closer to the edge of the sofa-bed. As the ringing continued, Aloy gingerly crept to where her phone was. Lifting up the screen, her eyes were met with a familiar name… 

“Lin Xinyan, the coolest intern ever!”

How long, and how many times, did Xin try to call me?!  

Letting out a sigh, Aloy picked up the line. “Officer Aloy Nora, New Teyvat Police Department…” 

“ALOY OF THE NORA! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY TIMES I TRIED TO CALL YOU!” Xinyan yelled, from the other side of the line. 

“Yeah, um sorry…” Aloy sighed, stifling a yawn, “I was sleeping…” 

“Yeah, understandable. You lit a bunch of arrows on fire and defeated a Lawachurl last night.” 

“Rost’s probably turning in his grave right now.” 

Xinyan laughed. “Anywho, I’m at your door now. Could you let me in?” 

“How do you know where I live--” 

The realization hit like a truck. 

“Oh yeah. We’re neighbors.” Aloy said, as if she’d realized she drank instant ramen soup from the water heater because she forgot to clean it after she made instant ramen in it. “How long were you there, anyways?” 

“An entire hour.” 

Aloy froze in shock. “Crap. Sorry, Xinyan.” 

“Nah, it’s fine! I wanted to bring you some reheatable snacks. I bet you were hungry.” 

“Yeah, I’ll let you in. Thanks a toWAAAAAH!” 

Since Aloy had completely forgotten she was at the very edge of her bed, she ended up falling off it. Stumbling to her feet, she opened the door to meet Xinyan, who had tied her hair in a ponytail instead of her twin-buns. 

“Good mornin’!” Xinyan greeted, holding up a plastic bag. “Did you sleep well?” 

“Very well, thank you.” 

“Well…” Xinyan started, as she slipped her shoes off, “I brought you some dim sum at WanminMart. These are microwave reheatable, so all we need to do is to fill some water and then pop the boxes into the microwave.” 

“I never heard of those.” Aloy admitted, shutting the door, “Is it a new thing?” 

“Yep-di-do!” Xinyan cheered, filling up the box with water. “They started selling them today. They’re hot cakes, y’know?” 

As Xinyan popped the plastic box into the microwave, she hummed a little tune as she drummed her fingers on the countertop. 

“Oh yeah! My parents are planning on inviting me and my friends for dinner.” Xinyan remembered, “We’re heading to an all-you-can-eat steamboat place in New Liyue Harbor, and all my friends are invited.” 

“Oh, that’s nice!” Aloy replied. 

Xinyan paused. “You’re also invited.” 

“Wait, I am?!” 

“Yeah! After all, you’re my friend.” 

As soon as that, Aloy dashed to her wardrobe and furiously pulled out as many clothes as she could get her hands on. 

“Random dress, some shorts, a sweater I have for some reason, stuff from Meridian (not really Meridian, but it’s actually Springvale because I was a chuunibyou ), a random kimono I have in here for some reason…” Aloy rambled furiously, trying to find something to wear. All while Xinyan watched in a laid-back relaxation. 

“Aloy, calm down. You just need to be presentable.” Xinyan laughed. 

“Presentable?! Does the restaurant have a dress code?” Aloy panicked, throwing more clothes out of her wardrobe. “Keep in mind that it’s. My. First. Time!” 

Xinyan stared at the messy heap of clothes caused by the panic. Inching towards them, she carefully lifted up some dresses and shirts…

“Hey, I think the kimono would work.” Xinyan said, holding up the light brown kimono. It was plain, but had a geometric pattern in a lighter shade of brown and some printed-on feathers in red and blue. 

The intern froze. “You think so?” 

“Yep, I’m certain.” 

 

As it turns out, the kimono fit Aloy like a glove, and it was also (according to Xinyan) the prettiest dress she’d ever seen. All her friend needed was a pair of socks, a pair of geta (Japanese slippers), and her hair to be done nicely, and the outfit would be ready. After slipping off the garment and taking out the dim sum from the microwave, the two interns decided to call up the two other people Xinyan hadn’t invited yet: Barbara and Eula. Perched on the bar stools near the kitchen island, Xinyan whipped out her phone and dialed Barbara. The dial tone echoed throughout the whole apartment.

“Hello? Barbara?” Xinyan asked. 

“H-hello… what is it?” Barbara asked, her voice a muffled whisper. Because Barbara was normally cheerful and loud, it was odd hearing her this quiet. 

“So um,” Aloy started, trying to sound cheery, “We were planning on--” 

“BARBARA PEGG! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!” a voice yelled from over the line. It sounded like someone was shouting from across the room. Xinyan immediately recognised the voice’s owner: Jean, AKA 4NEMO’s manager. The pair of interns soon heard Barbara pleading to her sister. 

“No, Jean, I--” she stammered. 

“Get off your phone.” Jean ordered. 

“B-but…” 

“GET OFF YOUR PHONE, OR I WILL TAKE IT FROM YOU.” 

The two girls started arguing. As the interns on the other side of the line took a confused bite of their dim sum , they barely caught snippets and words out of the fight. 

Soon, what sounded like a slap struck like lightning. A yelp screamed on the line, followed by a clattering sound Aloy associated with a dropped phone. 

“Hello, this is Jean Gunnhildr, how may I help you?” Jean spoke to the two interns. Even if they couldn’t see each other, the two interns knew she was in professional mode and she had a smile on her face. 

“W-we would l-like…” Aloy stammered in fear, before Xinyan gave her the “let me handle this” wink and a thumbs up. 

“My parents are inviting Barbara out for dinner at an all-you-can-eat steamboat restaurant in New Liyue Harbor.” Xinyan spoke, confidently. “Aloy and all of my friends are invited.”  

Jean was silent for a second. “No. My fat-ass sister is not coming to dinner. She’s grounded and she’s as fat as a pig, so she shouldn't be eating.” 

At this, Aloy nearly choked on her food. 

“Fat? FAT?!” Aloy hissed to Xinyan. “HOW IN THE NAME OF HECK IS SHE FAT?! SHE’S LITERALLY THE SLIMMEST PERSON I KNOW!” 

“O-okay then…sorry for asking…” Xinyan said, awkwardly. 

“No, no. I should be apologizing. Barbara’s just ruined everything for you and Aloy. She’s a mistake; a kid that shouldn’t even have been born. It’s not your fault, put the blame on the stupid motherfucker of a sister I have.” 

With that, Jean hung up, leaving a stunned Aloy and a Xinyan chewing on her food with a confused yet sad look painted on her face. 

“I didn’t know Jean cussed a lot.” Aloy started, breaking the silence. 

“Y-yeah…” Xinyan replied, on the verge of tears. “It…really hurts…Barbara is super kind and nice…so why would her sister…” 

Xinyan had no heart to finish her sentence; her voice was overcome with tears. 

Trying to save the situation, Aloy sighed, “Hey, do you need a hug? It could really help…” 

Without any hesitation, Xinyan leapt into her friend’s arms and sobbed loudly. 

“Hey, look. It’s not your fault. And I understand it hurts when people talk shit about the people you love.” Aloy reassured Xinyan, rubbing circles on her back. “All that matters is that she’s our friend, and we love her for who she is.” 

“B-but…” Xinyan sobbed, “I have a bad feeling about Jean…s-something’s wrong, I can feel it…” 

“I feel the same way.” Aloy agreed, as she broke away from the hug. “Should we ask Eula for dinner and help?” 

“Oh yeah…we forgot to call Eula.” Xinyan remembered. She typed in Eula’s number at the speed of light, then pressed the dial button. 

“Hey there. Is there anything wrong?” Eula asked, on the line. “My meeting just ended, so I can talk for a while.” 

“So uh, two things.” Xinyan admitted. She and Aloy explained everything they heard from Barbara and Jean, and the fact that Xinyan was inviting the Chief Officer of the 69th Precinct for an all-you-can-eat steamboat dinner. 

“Well first of all, I’m glad you invited me. I’m willing to come.” Eula said, on the other side of the line. “But about Barbara, thanks for bringing that to light. I’ll dispatch some officers to check if she’s okay.” 

“Thank you so much, Chief!” Xinyan thanked, “I just hope Barbara’s okay.” 

“Yeah, I’m going to dispatch the officers now. Can you send me the info about tonight’s dinner?” 

“Sure, I’ll DM you.” 

“Okay, thanks! I knew something was up with Jean when we first met in Inazuma.” 

“Agreed.” Aloy replied, “She seems to hate Barbara, but we don’t know why.” 

 

A few hours later, five in the evening. Since today was the first day of December, there was very light snow dusting the streets like sugar. While waiting for Xinyan and her parents to get ready, Albedo decided to challenge Sucrose and Aloy to a challenge…

“The first person to get Frost Queen Cookie will get a treat tonight!” Albedo challenged. 

“We’re allowed to spend money, right?” Aloy asked. 

“Yep.” Sucrose replied. “I’ve saved a good amount of Crystals and Frost Crystals--” 

“I spent some Mora.” Aloy boasted, showing her horde of 500,000 Crystals. “You were saying?” 

Albedo froze. “She has a higher chance of success out of all of us.”  

One ten pull, and Sucrose got Cotton Cookie. 

After another ten pulls, Albedo got Twizzly Gummy Cookie. 

After five ten pulls…

“Do you also yearn for the endless snow?” 

“HOLY MOTHER OF ROST!” Aloy yelled, showing the phone screen to the two cops. “SHE IS HERE!!!” 

“You lucky bastard.” Albedo sulked, sour as a lemon. 

“Um…guys…” 

Sucrose showed her phone screen. 

“Hardships are meant to be shared.” 

“The ocean is forever…” 

“Do you also yearn for the endless snow?” 

“Always pleased to meet new friends!” 

Albedo and Aloy’s jaws dropped; Sucrose got the rarest units in the game. In a single ten-pull. 

“Sucrose, take our money.” the two of them sighed. 

“Hello, everyone!” Xinyan greeted. She was in a red Liyuean dress and had her parents in similar outfits behind her. She then noticed Sucrose and Albedo in comfortable sweaters and Aloy in the kimono , crouched and with phones in hand. “What happened here?” 

“Sucrose got the four .” Albedo replied. 

“Sucrose got the mermaid, the snow queen, the cool princess and the OP (overpowered) healer with a flower staff.” Aloy replied. 

Xinyan peeked at Sucrose’s phone, then gasped. “Sucrose, how are you so lucky?” 

“I don’t know, free-to-play luck???” Sucrose replied, “I have absolutely no idea, but I’m happy.” 

“Where’s Officer Lawrence?” Xinyan’s mother asked. “Isn’t she supposed to be here by now?” 

“Well, uh--” Sucrose stammered, craning her head left and right. 

“Ahem.” 

The three interns jolted, only to find Eula behind them in an elegant dinner gown. 

“Ah, Chief.” Albedo greeted. “It’s nice to see you.” 

“Well, about Barbara, first of all, Jean said she wasn’t in the house.” Eula sighed. “The cops couldn’t search the place because Jean was very adamant that Barbara went out to jog or something.” 

“I fucking knew she was hiding something!” Aloy and Xinyan cried, two voices ringing as one. 

“What is going on here?” Xinyan’s father asked. “Is it something related to our daughter’s friends?” 

“Nothing to worry about.” Eula reassured the couple, then turned to Aloy and Xinyan. “What happened in the phone call stays within the phone call. Do you two understand?” 

“Yes, Chief…” the two interns replied. 

Despite the other adults being partially confused, they let it slide as they went for dinner. 

The restaurant was clean and bright. It was busy that evening, so the scent of warm soup and cooked shabu-shabu meat and fish balls filled the room. Dusk turned to night in an instant, the soup had to get multiple refills, and in an instant, a stack of empty plates stood in a tall tower in the corner of the table.  In the middle of dinner, Xinyan decided to challenge everyone else at the table to a competition. 

“Whoever can finish the most fish balls will get free ice cream!” Xinyan challenged. “The light brown fried ones, not the plain white ones.” 

Everyone looked at each other, mainly to see who would take up the challenge. Before Xinyan laughed off the challenge, Albedo stepped up and accepted the challenge. Followed by Xinyan’s father, Xinyan herself and Sucrose. After cooking what Eula estimated were seventy-five fish balls (Probably even more, according to Aloy), the challengers got ready some skewer sticks they stole from the buffet area as Xinyan’s mother counted down. Some other people who were eating at the restaurant were watching them. Some of them got ice cream, some others pulled their phones out. 

“On your marks!” Xinyan’s mother, called. 

“Get set!” 

The whole audience’s voices rang as one, “GO!” 

Within seconds, the group were chomping down on as many as four fish balls at a time. Aloy and Eula just sat at the side, Aloy eating a giant swirl of chocolate ice cream she’d pulled from the ice-cream section of the buffet and Eula recording the whole competition on her phone.  

“So, who’s betting for who?” Xinyan’s mother announced. “You may make your bets!” 

“And to make things more interesting,” Aloy started, standing up, “The winner may pick a prize of their liking! As long as you’re not asking for how you were born and it’s not too expensive like a Restla or a giant mansion. The price of the reward caps off at three hundred thousand Mora. If it’s anything more expensive than that, then you will have to choose something else.” 

“But it’s “anything you want”, Aloy.” Eula reminded, doing air quotes. 

“Either I’ve played too much of Horizon Zero Dawn or I’m a broke high-school student. Either way, it’s not good.” 

“Well fun fact,” Xinyan said, her mouth full, “Aloy here just so happens to share the name of Horizon’s protagonist and the first collab character in Genshin Impact.” 

“Yes, yes, my full name is Aloy Nora and-” Aloy craned her head to Albedo, “I AM NOT PAYING FOR THE REWARDS AS I HAVE NO MONEY !”   

“THEN WHY DID YOU COME UP WITH THAT?!” Albedo shout-asked in reply. 

“ISN’T EULA TREATING?!” Xinyan’s father asked. 

“Everyone, let’s stick to a “loser treats winner” thing. Everyone who participated has to pay for the reward.” Eula sighed. 

As everyone looked on, everyone started making bets on who would win. From sums of Mora to free snacks and alcohol, apparently, there was a group of college students making a bet on a new Cinsenso Switch! The bets went so high, piles of banknotes and coins stood in mini heaps on a section of the table. Even Eula, Xinyan’s mother and Aloy got in the fun, with a ton of chaos. 

“I’m betting on Xinyan, and I’m going to add some WanminMart meals to the pile.” Aloy started. 

Eula said, “Really? You’re that broke?” 

“In my defense, they serve a variant of Pile ‘Em Up with actual A5 Wagyu. I’m buying that for whoever wins the bet.” 

“They serve Wagyu?!” Xinyan’s mother gasped. 

“Yeah, they do.” Aloy replied. “I tried it once, it was delicious. Ten-out-of-ten; would eat again.” 

“I’m betting on Albedo and Sucrose.” Eula said, slamming her phone on the table. “Spotify Premium membership for a whole year. From my own credit card.” 

“Would be useless on me because I have Premium already, but thanks.” 

“If Aloy wins,” Eula craned her head, “I’m buying her a year of Playstation Online.” 

“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” Aloy gasped, nearly leaping out of her seat in shock. “Dude--” 

“I’m placing my bet on my husband.” Xinyan’s mother smiled lovingly. “He has the appetite of ten people!” 

“Really?” Eula asked. “I think he gave up.” 

The trip craned their heads to Xinyan’s father, who was leaning back in his chair. 

“Oh, and my husband is out!” Xinyan’s mother announced, prompting some groans from some people who betted on him. 

“Sucrose is also out!” Eula announced. “So it’s down to Albedo and Xinyan--” 

“XINYAN IS THE WINNER!!!” Aloy and Xinyan’s mother yelled, in shock and awe. 

“YOU GAVE UP?!” Eula yelled at Albedo, “I WAS BETTING FOR YOU! I NOW HAVE TO PAY FOR PLAYSTATION ONLINE FOR ONE OF MY INTERNS!” 

Aloy let out a haughty laugh. “Hand over the online subscription, Chief. I won the bet. So I’m also buying myself steak.”

“Sorry, Chief. I was tired.” Albedo admitted.

“Wait, mom.” Xinyan started, sipping some water, “You were betting?!” 

“Yes, I was. Aloy bet on you.” 

“ALOY I SWEAR TO REX LAPIS!” 

“AUNTIE, WHAT DID YOU BET ANYWAYS?!” Sucrose asked. 

Xinyan’s mother didn’t say a word. But she pulled out…

A 5000 Mora shopping coupon at the Favonius Mall. 

Aloy whooped. 

Xinyan sighed.

Albedo cracked up. 

Eula face-palmed. 

“Honey, that coupon was about to expire, wasn’t it?!” Xinyan’s father yelled. 

“It was, so I might as well give it away!”  

“That reminds me, I still have a 1000 Mora Wc’Donalds coupon I never used.” Albedo admitted. 

“So, since Xinyan won, name your prize.” Eula offered, standing up. 

The room fell silent. 

“A sleepover. At my place.” Xinyan spoke. 

“Okay, seems good enough.” Xinyan’s husband whispered. 

“Tonight. If it’s possible.” Xinyan finished, slamming her hands on the table. The impact caused everything on the table to levitate for a minute before landing back at their original spots. 

“Oh god, this will be hard.” Xinyan’s father whispered. 

 

In the end, Xinyan decided to have a sleepover the next week, so her parents would at least have time to prepare and Xinyan can at least make invites. It was initially weird for an eighteen year old girl to want to have a sleepover, but it then changed to be a gaming night with everyone staying over. 

“You two better be at the station tomorrow. We’ve got a meeting.” Eula instructed the two interns as she dropped them back at their apartment block. “Oh, and tell Barbara.” 

“Yes, Chief!” the two interns’ voices rang as one. 

“Great, we’ll see you tomorrow.” Albedo nodded. 

Sucrose waved as she walked home with Albedo, yelling good night and telling Aloy she owed her ice cream. 

“That was a great dinner. Thanks for inviting me.” 

“No problem, Aloy!” Xinyan grinned. “I’m glad we were in the same precinct.” 

As Xinyan’s parents chattered, Aloy pulled her phone out. Might as well inform Barbara before she forgets. However…

Aloy asked, “Xinyan, can you check if Barbara blocked you?” 

“Wait, what?” Xinyan replied. She whipped out her phone, panic shocking her like lightning.

“Xin, don’t use your phone while walking.” Xinyan’s father scolded. 

“We’re calling Barbara.” Xinyan replied. “To prevent us from forgetting later.” 

“We should head home first…” Xinyan’s mother sighed, “People could hear you.” 

Xinyan sulked. 

Aloy said, “You drop by my apartment for a bit. And we’ll try to call.” 

“Got it.” The group resumed walking up the stairs. “But what if Barbara…” 

“It’d be unlikely for her to actually block us.” Aloy reassured her. “Maybe we texted the wrong account.” 

As they reached the apartment, Xinyan instructed her parents to head back first, she’d be home soon. The two interns ran into the apartment after kicking their shoes off. Perching on the bar stools, they pulled their phone out. 

“Okay, try and send her a message.” Aloy instructed. “I have no response except from the Clyde bot.” 

Xinyan nodded. “Got it.” 

 

XinyanBlazingRiff: barbara, are you there?

Clyde [BOT]: Your message could not be delivered because you don't share a server with the recipient or you disabled direct messages on your shared server, recipient is only accepting direct messages from friends, or you were blocked by the recipient.

 

Xinyan groaned. “Damn it!” 

“Try calling her.” Aloy suggested. “I can tell when someone has blocked you.” 

“On Discord or by normal phone call?” 

“Normal phone call.” 

Xinyan dialed Barbara’s number. 

One dial…

“Your call has been auto-directed to a voicemail--” 

Xinyan hung up.

“Yep, your number’s blocked on Barbara’s side.” Aloy sighed. “Let me try mine…” 

Again, Aloy tried to dial Barbara’s phone…

One di--

“The person you’re trying to call is unava--” 

“FUCK!” Aloy yelled, making Xinyan jump. “She also blocked me!” 

Xinyan sat in stunned silence for a second. “I’m going to ask Sucrose, Albedo and the Chief to check if they can reach Barbara.” 

“Yes, please.” 

Upon asking everyone, Xinyan and Aloy found out that Barbara had blocked everyone ; even Chief Officer Eula. 

“Oh my goodness…” Xinyan sighed. She held her head in her hands. “If Jean blocked our numbers, how are we going to tell her?” 

“I’m certain she’ll remember.” Aloy hoped. “At least, I just hope she can remember.”

Chapter Text

Unfortunately for Aloy and Xinyan, Barbara never showed up on Saturday, the next day, or even the day after. It was already Thursday the next week by the time Chief Officer Eula lost it.  

“Where is she?!” Eula asked, furiously. “It’s ten in the morning!” 

Xinyan and Sucrose stared at Eula silently. 

“Aloy, I thought you called her.” Xinyan whispered. 

“Remember?” Aloy hissed back, “Barbara’s blocked all our numbers!” 

“Wait, Barbara blocked all of you?” Eula asked. “So she wasn’t lying at all.” 

Albedo said, “So I guess it’s just the few of us.” 

 

Lunch time at Good Hunter…

“Honestly speaking, I really miss Barbara.” Sucrose sighed. “She’d always be chattering away about 4NEMO.” 

“But…” Aloy sighed, “I just can’t believe it.” 

“Believe what?” 

“The fact that 4NEMO’s manager is Barbara’s sister. And I’ve recorded the call if we need to go to the police.” 

“Aloy, we’re literally the police.” Xinyan pointed. “Also, you didn’t even take a bite of your hashbrowns.” 

“Yeah, yeah.” 

As the ginger-haired intern took a bite, Xinyan and Sucrose decided to try and contact Barbara again. 

But this time, since Sucrose had two phone numbers, they had a chance of success. 

One dial…

Two dials…

Aloy noticed the dials and tried to speak up. “Are you guys--” 

“SSH!” Xinyan and Sucrose hissed.

A click resounded. 

“We’re sorry.” an automated voice spoke, “The number you have dialled--” 

“Yep, she’s unreachable.” Sucrose groaned, hanging up.

“What are the odds, though?” Xinyan asked. “I mean, we found out today that Sucrose has two phone numbers.” 

“Either Barbara is busy or she just hung up on the spot.” Aloy suggested. 

“What if Jean’s the one behind this?” the group heard Eula ask. Craning their heads, Eula was behind them, eating a sandwich.

“Great to see you, Chief.” Xinyan greeted. 

“Jean just called the police.” Eula said. 

Aloy stood up in shock, the chair screeching in what seemed like pain. “SHE WHAT?!” 

“Barbara is not at home.” Eula explained. “She suspects she ran away.” 

“Well, why in the name of Rex Lapis should we help her?!” Xinyan snapped, crossing her hands. “She seems like a piece of--” 

Sucrose frantically blocked Xinyan’s mouth, covering her hands over it. “N-no cursing, Xinyan!” 

Aloy nodded, “Well, I can agree with Xinyan. I’m a bit hesitant on helping Jean. Something seems very, very fishy.”  

 

Meanwhile, at the 69th Precinct, a panicked Jean was sobbing and shaking. Albedo attended to her while Sucrose, Aloy and Xinyan went out for lunch. As Eula opened the door, she was greeted with some weird stares from other officers, as if asking if she was responsible for what was going down. 

“Please, Barbara has been gone since morning--” Jean stammered, as the two interns and Sucrose arrived back at headquarters. 

“Ah, Jean. You’re back.” Xinyan said, deadpan. 

“You’ve got to help me!” Jean cried, taking the intern by the shoulders. “Barbara was supposed to head to the Church of Favonius this morning, but, but…” 

Aloy and Sucrose looked quizzically at Jean. 

“I don’t think she really…” Sucrose murmured. 

Aloy nodded with a hiss. “Yeah. I feel something’s up.” 

“Have any of you seen Barbara?” Jean asked Aloy and Sucrose. “Did she come…” 

Eula said, “Barbara didn’t turn up at the internship from last Saturday until today.” 

“We even tried calling her,” Aloy stammered, “but--” 

“Barbara has her phone confiscated.” Jean replied. “That’s why she didn’t pick up any calls you made.” 

Then how are our numbers blocked?! Sucrose and Xinyan wanted to yell. Instead, they decided to hold their tongue. Saying anything would add flame to the fire. 

“Understood.” Albedo nodded. “Where was Barbara’s phone?” 

“I kept it in a safe in my bedroom. However…” 

 

“The phone was gone the same morning Barbara disappeared.” 

 

“You know what?!” Aloy yelled. She put her hands on her hips and looked to the ceiling lined with fluorescent lamps. “Time to abuse the power entrusted to us!” 

“Aloy, I don’t think…” Sucrose panicked, stammering and clutching her shoulders. 

“Officer Nora, Officer Ampulla, we will be doing an investigation for this.” Eula declared. “We will take neutral sides, however.” 

“We will be helping Jean, but if we find or see any reasons to take Barbara’s side, we will switch over with no hesitation.” Albedo continued. “Understand?” 

“Understood.” Sucrose, Aloy and Xinyan nodded. 

“Thank you very much!” Jean cried, in what seemed like happiness. “When I get Barbara back, I’ll be sure to give her a scolding for running away…” 

After settling a few things with Albedo, Jean rushed out of the bullpen. Aloy, Xinyan, Eula and Sucrose huddled together in what seemed like panic. 

“Okay. First of all.” Eula started. “I sensed something was wrong. Very wrong.” 

“Yeah. I had the feeling those were crocodile tears.” Aloy nodded. 

Xinyan replied, “I mean, I can make myself cry on my own will. All I need to do is to rub my eyes really quickly.” 

“It’s another case of “it seems innocent but is actually a bitch”.” Albedo nodded. 

“Yeah. Seen that too many times in video games and I-Dramas (Inazuman Dramas).” Aloy and Xinyan’s voices spoke, replying as one. 

“Wait, Aloy watches dramas?” Eula asked. 

“I “Borrow” my friend’s Betfix account.” Aloy replied. 

Albedo asked, “Let me guess, Hu Tao?” 

“Yes.” 

“Anyways, let’s get to work. We’ll have to put Ganyu’s request aside for now.” Eula ordered, standing up. 

 

That evening, Xinyan’s bedroom. 

Xinyan’s bedroom was simple but charming with dark red being the colour of the walls and bedsheets. Ali was sleeping on Xinyan’s lap, the calico cat about to fall off the edge. Xinyan was seated at her neat desk with a paper and pen. She had Discord open on her laptop, and was reading the messages as she went by, the notification pings turned into white noise. 

 

lmao 69  

 

ChiefOfficerEula : so here’s something i noticed. 

the phone call said something.

ALBEDOOOO : You know it's serious when the chief has good grammar and um IDK what it’s called.

XinyanBlazingRiff : proper sentence structure ig idk

ChiefOfficerEula : jean said something about barbara being a child that shouldn't be born…

Sucrose : Yeah you have a point

It stood out the most, so…

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 : so uh i made notes

[HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 sent an attachment. It’s a photo of a few stacks of A4 paper scribbled with notes. The third page, the right-most sheet, is filled with a large pen scribble in dark blue ink.] 

XinyanBlazingRiff : holy mother of rex lapis aloy are you ok

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 : i got really angry 

sorry

i nearly slammed punched a wall 

ChiefOfficerEula : um hate to be rude but who is @HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 again?

ALBEDOOOO : Aloy

XinyanBlazingRiff : aloy

Sucrose : aloy nora

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 : aloy is me >:D

Sucrose : why are you so angry??? (・_・;)

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 : short reason or long reason

ALBEDOOOO : short reason

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 : my fucking genshin won’t load

i want to play horizon but no energy

i want to fucking cry :D

also

barbaras sister is a

i dont want to say it here but shes bad >:(((((

XinyanBlazingRiff : that’s a long reply

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 : if you want the long reply beware 

it’ll be as long as the bee movie

and it’d be angsty as hell

simply put, as long as a good hurt/comfort fic with some smut in it. >:3

ChiefOfficerEula : anyways 

 

The stress of Barbara’s disappearance had gotten to everyone, and Aloy and Xinyan herself seemed to be hit the worst. As Xinyan leaned back in her chair, she sighed, hoping to hold onto any sanity she had left. She was deathly afraid that she needed to pull another all nighter. Her mind wandered to the one time in her freshman year, where she forgot to do three months of homework. She remembered drinking twelve cups of coffee and not being able to sleep for three nights, karma for what she’d done. 

Da-ding! the computer chirped. 

What is it this time? Xinyan thought to herself. She looked at the screen…

 

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 (spamhere, main stuff): AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA … [message too long, didn’t fit in the press notification]

ALBEDOOOO : holy cow aloy are you ok

HorizonZeroDawnFan2017 : I AM AT MY FUCKING LIMIT

ALBEDOOOO : …

 

Now, saying that Aloy was hit the worst of them all was merely an understatement. 

 

The next evening, at the gamer night, there was still no sign of Barbara. Xinyan and Eula decided to go along with the sleepover so everyone could release some stress. It went like a blur, but chaos ensued with a lot of laughter, to the extent that you could forget what happened over the past few days. 

First, Aloy was dared to record and compose a song within three hours and post it on Youtube. 

Then, Xinyan was asked about the last time she had a pet. It turned out she had another cat before Ali, a tabby cat called LinLin. 

Albedo was dared to throw a bag of chips at Aloy while the Youtube video was uploaded. Aloy dodged it by just tilting her head. The chips ended up being eaten in the end.

Then, Sucrose was dared to recite all the meanings for the word “set” in under two minutes. 

And after all that…

“I’ve done it!” Aloy cheered. “All we need to do is to wait for a minute or two and the views will rank in.” 

One minute…

Two minutes…

The truth or dare game seemed slow and dull, especially because of the anxiety from posting something. Anxiety took over. Aloy whipped out her phone. 

Two views on her song. 

Aloy slumped with a groan. 

“I guess writing a song really is hard…” the intern cried. “All my effort for nothing…” 

“Hey, hey! It’s okay…” Xinyan laughed. “It’s your first post, so don’t expect it to go big on day one.” 

“If only I was a popular superstar like Yun Jin…” Aloy sighed, “A single upload from her would rank in a million views in a second…” 

Suddenly, Xinyan’s parents entered the room. 

“Mom! Dad!” Xinyan dashed to her parents. “What’s going on?” 

“There’s someone at the door. She’s running away from the police.” Xinyan’s father spoke, concern painted on his face. 

“The police?” Albedo asked. 

Xinyan’s mother nodded. “You should see her for yourself.” 

The seven of them ran to the door. Albedo grasped a Nerf gun, Sucrose lifted a thick maths textbook, Aloy picked up one of Xinyan’s toy archery sets and Eula picked up a pair of children's scissors. Xinyan nervously grasped the doorknob. Her parents ducked behind a sofa. 

Albedo loaded his gun.

Aloy aimed her bow.

Eula silently nodded. 

Xinyan threw the door open. 

And everyone’s faces dropped. 

Similarly, Aloy lowered her bow and Sucrose hastily put the book on a nearby table upon seeing who it was. 

It was Barbara.

Chapter Text

The five cops were stunned. 

Barbara stood in front of the doorstep, backed by a group of police officers. Her hands were handcuffed. She was wearing a dark hoodie, a backpack and a pair of shorts and sneakers. Her shoes were scuffed and messy, and her face and clothes were painted in dirt and dust. Her hair wasn’t styled in the trademark twintails, they laid in messy, uncombed, blonde waves. 

Xinyan was the first to speak. “B-Barbara?” 

“Chief Officer Lawrence!” a police officer said. “We were following orders to apprehend the girl once we found her.” 

Eula froze in shock.

“Whose orders?” Eula demanded, angry, firm and stunned. 

“Jean Gundhildr.” the two officers replied, firmly. 

The group stood in pensiveness, until Eula ordered the two cops to uncuff the girl and leave. Barbara quickly leapt into Xinyan’s arms. Her loud sobs could be heard as Xinyan tried to comfort her. 

“What’s wrong?” Xinyan asked, trying to comfort her friend, “What’s going on?” 

Barbara was stammering, but everyone managed to catch onto what she was trying to say. Jean was going to send Barbara to the Church of Favonius to “pray the gay away” and if that failed, Barbara was going to be sent to a straightening camp in Snezhnaya. And to make matters even worse, Jean repeatedly berated and slapped and punched her whenever things went wrong. Anything at all, from 4NEMO, to issues in Celestia Entertainment, even to small matters like the post coming late. All because Barbara was considered a child of sin, a dark impurity ruining a perfect, white canvas. Needless to say, everyone was shocked. 

Eula cleared her throat. “According to the Ten Laws, a child made out of wedlock is innocent.” 

“They-they are?” Barbara asked. 

“I mean,” Aloy shrugged. “It’s not the child’s choice to be born at all. The child is innocent. And you’re the child, so you’re innocent. Case closed.”

“I can’t believe your sister is that kind of person.” Albedo huffed. 

“What the fuck does your sister think at all?!” Sucrose yelled. “That isn’t true! Aloy’s a l--” 

“Sucrose, I’m asexual.” Aloy corrected. “And I’m an atheist.” 

Sucrose shrank into the shadows. “S-sorry…” 

“No hard feelings, it’s just a misunderstanding. Anyways,” Aloy turned to Eula. “Who are we fighting for, again?” 

Eula pondered for what seemed like ten hours before she looked up. Her verdict? 

The Chief pulled her phone out. “I’m going to give you all the orders, so listen up. Xinyan will tend to Barbara. If there are any wounds, patch them up and treat them. Albedo and Aloy will be on the field if we need to make an arrest. And Sucrose will be on the run if we need to get supplies, like medicine or wound dressings.” 

“Understood.” the group of police officers and interns nodded. 

“Xinyan,” Eula spoke, craning her head to Xinyan, “I need you to clean Barbara up, check her for any wounds, and if she has any, we will make an arrest.” 

“An arrest? On my sister?!” Barbara asked, practically screaming. “No! I won’t accept it! She’s my sister--” 

“She may be your sister by blood, but if she hurt you, she must face the consequences.” Albedo replied, coldly. “It’s messed up if you still love the person who hurt you the most.” 

“I mean, she’s my sister. I have to love her, or I’m a bad girl.” 

“So technically you’re forcing yourself to love her.” Sucrose assumed. 

Barbara sheepishly nodded. 

“Holy fucking shit.” Aloy yelled. “That’s unhealthy as hell. If I had a sister like that, I would hate her fucking guts and hope she rots in hell. What people say should not have any influence on how you think! You are your own person, and you decide how you think and live!”

“Similarly,” Eula added, “Doesn’t mean that you hate your sister doesn’t mean you’re a bad girl. You have your reasons to hate her, and that’s completely valid.” 

Barbara stared at her feet. “But what will everyone think…” 

“Give no shits and be yourself.” Albedo replied. “Again, you are your own person. Who cares if you’re considered a bad girl? Some crimes can go unpunished if it’s justified, like killing someone out of self-defence.” 

“Fine. I’ll let you arrest her.” Barbara said, sour as a lemon. 

 

“You’re all speaking the truth for the first time…” the blonde girl whispered under her breaths.    

 

“Holy cow, Barbara…” Xinyan gasped, in shock. 

After Barbara had taken a shower, she was wrapped in a towel, soaked in water, and perching herself on the edge of Xinyan’s bed. Her arms and legs were covered in wounds and scars, mostly on her forearms. Her wet hair fell flat, water dripping slowly as the blanket of blonde tried to dry itself without the aid of a hairdryer, with almost no avail. 

“Are they that bad?” Barbara asked, quietly. “I don’t really look in a mirror.” 

“Really bad.” Xinyan replied, lifting up one of Barbara’s legs and checking for any further wounds. She looked up. “Barbs, who gave you these?” 

“Jean.” 

“For the fucking love of Rex Lapis…” 

Barbara looked away. Sure, it was embarrassing for her to be wrapped in a towel, and for her to be sitting next to the girl she loved. And even worse…

Barbara’s gaze fell to the wounds on her arms. 

One cut for all the pain she’d caused her sister. 

One cut for all the words that were claimed as true. 

One cut as a mark of another day she’d survived under a sadistic, abusive older sister. 

A sadistic and abusive girl that was supposed to love her. 

“I’ll get you some bandages. I’ve got to treat these as soon as possible.” Xinyan announced, standing up. 

But suddenly, Barbara grabbed onto Xinyan’s shirt. 

“Where are you going?” Barbara asked. 

Xinyan was caught off-guard. “I-I’m headed to the kitchen--” 

“Why are you going to the kitchen?” Barbara demanded, her voice breaking. “Are you going to leave me alone? Will you let me die? Will I be safe?” 

Xinyan stood motionless, facing her friend. The drops of water dripping from Barbara’s hair tapped the crimson blanket with a rhythmic yet chaotic pit-pat, the only sounds breaking the silence. After a long wait, Xinyan finally spoke. 

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m with you until the end.” Xinyan comforted, patting Barbara’s head, “If there’s anything, you can yell, and I’ll be there.” 

“Xinyan…” 

Xinyan smiled warmly. “Alright. I’ll go get the bandages and the first-aid kit while you change. If you have no spare clothes, you may borrow mine.” 

“Thanks.” Barbara replied, shyly. 

Xinyan walked to the door. “I’ll be back, and remember. Call my name if you need me; I’ll be there.” 

The door shut. 

 

“Aloy, we need to make an arrest.” Xinyan said to Aloy. In the living room, Aloy was checking for Jean’s criminal records, to almost no avail. So the news of having to arrest Jean hit the ginger-haired intern like a truck in pure shock. 

“Wha-what the fuck?!” Aloy gasped, “Is the evidence…”

“Barbara has a ton of scars on her legs and arms.” Xinyan explained, grabbing the first-aid kit from a tall kitchen cabinet. At this, Aloy jumped to her feet. 

“It could be a possible false alarm.” Aloy suggested. “I’ve self-harmed before, and I know what self-harm wounds look like. The wounds on the feet need further observation, what did they look like?” 

Xinyan replied after a minute of questioning, “They looked like they came from a cane or a clothes hanger.” 

“Proves my point about the abuse, but what about the wounds on the arms? Do we have any proof Barbara always wears shorts at home?” 

Xinyan shrugged, prompting Aloy to curse under her breath. 

“I’ll need Albedo to check on the wounds-see if there’s a reason or a cause. If it’s self-harm, I can recognise them right away. But if not, I’ll have to consult the Chalk Prince.” 

“But still, are we going to arrest Jean?” Sucrose asked, nervous. “I-I mean…” 

“The wounds are proof. We need another piece of evidence to prove it.” Xinyan replied. 

“So…what’s that proof?” Sucrose whispered. 

Aloy looked around, as if she was ensuring no-one would hear her or was looking in the group’s direction. “It’s Barbara herself.” 

 

“Barbara, are you done changing yet?” Albedo called, from the other side of the door. 

“Yep! I’m done.” Barbara replied. 

Upon opening the door, they were met with a young lady in a white button-up top and a pair of light blue shorts. Barbara’s hair was still a wet mess, but she at least attempted to dry it with a towel and straighten it with a comb she had in her bag, making very wet dreadlocks. 

“Whoaaaaaaaa.” Xinyan gasped. “You look really pretty.” 

“Thanks. I had these on me, so I decided to use them.” Barbara replied. “Anyways, why’s Albedo here?”

“Further investigation.” Aloy replied, deadpan. “We need to see if the wounds are really caused by Jean. So you’ll need to answer my questions truthfully.” 

A shiver ran down Barbara’s spine. She was normally the one who did the interrogations, but since Aloy was in charge now, it seemed like she was being interrogated by not a police officer, but the Discipline Teacher of Four Winds International School. She nervously nodded. 

“Alright.” Aloy nodded, pulling her Ai-Pad out. “So first question. Do you normally wear shorts at home?” 

“Um… Jean normally gets me to wear a knee-length dress at home.” 

“Knee-length, huh? I guess it explains the wounds on your legs. Do you wear any tights or shorts underneath the skirt?” 

Barbara shook her head, “Jean won’t allow me.” 

“Understood. Next question, do you remember what Jean would use to hit you, if she did?” 

“A clothes hanger.” 

“Called it.” Xinyan sighed. “And let me guess, also a rotan or a feather duster…” 

“Or whatever Jean gets her hands on.” Barbara and Xinyan replied in tandem. 

The two girls were silent. 

“So I’m assuming that Jean uses all these?” Aloy spoke, breaking the slightly awkward silence in the room. She turned to Albedo. “Albedo, your verdict?” 

“It checks out.” Albedo replied. “Majority of the wounds are on her calves, and they look like they were caused by someone striking a cane or something of the sort.” 

“Alright.” 

“Are there any more questions?” Barbara asked, slightly panicked. 

As her mind raced, Barbara imagined a million scenarios, most of them having an unhappy ending. Suddenly, Aloy bent down…

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” Barbara yelled. 

“Hey, calm down. I just want to check your arms.” Aloy sighed. “Again, I’m ace. I have no sexual attraction to any gender in the book.” 

Barbara let out a sigh of relief. 

“Aloy just wants to check the wounds on your arms.” Xinyan explained. “Her hypothesis is self-harm.” 

“Don’t worry, we’ll treat the wounds after I can tell what they are.” Aloy reassured Barbara. “If it hurts, tell me.” 

 

“Yep, I was completely right. It was self-harm.” 

“How could you tell?” Albedo asked, “I’ve never seen those wounds before.” 

In response, Aloy just rolled her sleeves up. There were shadows of scars scattered on her forearms. “I was there before, so I understand how it feels. However,” she said as she let her sleeves drop, covering her forearms, “It wasn’t abuse for me. It was bullying, and the loss of Rost.”

“How are you so open about this?” Barbara asked, as Xinyan treated the wounds. 

“I’ve...recovered. And it’s a good thing, actually. I went for therapy and stuff. But...this might be a relapse, and I’m fucking scared. It’s that Tumbler post all over again.”

“Which post, Aloy?” Xinyan asked, holding a roll of bandages. “You literally use Tumbler all the time.” 

“Me being ignored: This is fine, I suppose. (This is a lie; I’m on the verge of tears)” Aloy explained, rushing her voice at the end of her sentence. “Yeah. That post.” 

“I see…” Barbara said. “Are you sure you didn’t find it on Tweeter?” 

“No? I don’t even check my Tweeter at all. I rarely use social media.” 

“Aloy’s an icon, I need to get off my phone more.” Xinyan laughed, bandaging Barbara’s leg. 

“And here I am, I have no more mobile data.” Albedo sighed. “Damnit, Klee. She keeps using my mobile data to watch Cocomelon videos. How old is she, nine?” 

“You have a sister?” Barbara asked, surprised. 

“Yeah. She’s adopted. Only thing is, she’s currently in foster care because…” Albedo looked at the ceiling, “Somehow, this could be coincidence, but Jean also used to be our parental guardian. She claims to be holy, but in actuality, who knows how many men she’s slept with.” 

“I heard she divorced a member of Celestia Entertainment after around a year or two.” Aloy added. “I mean, it was a large scandal. Everyone on Tweeter was going WILD.” 

“Well…” Barbara spoke, quietly, “The scandals are true.” 

Suddenly, Eula burst into the room. “Officers, we need to make an arrest.” 

Aloy and Albedo jumped in shock, craning their heads to the Chief. “Wait, what?” 

“I’ve gotten in contact with Jean’s ex-husband. The claims of abuse are true.” 

“But Chief--” Sucrose started. 

“I understand what you’re trying to say. We have no time to get an arrest warrant.” Eula replied, sternly. “We need to get Jean under custody as soon as we can. My guess is that she will defer her anger to 4NEMO once Barbara’s gone.” 

“I can’t believe we had to do this…” Xinyan sighed. “So, I’ll stay here with Barbara…” 

“No, you should go. I can take care of myself.” Barbara replied. 

“Barbara, are you alright?” Sucrose asked. “If you’re okay, then…It’s not like I’m forcing you to or…” 

Barbara thought for a moment. She hopped to her feet. A smirk appeared on her face. “I’m going to come along. I want to see the look on Jean’s twisted face! After all, I’m not going to go down without a fight!” 

 

Midnight, Celestia Entertainment’s HeadQuarters, Narukami Island, New Inazuma City. Police cars filled the scene, sirens blaring loudly like alarm clocks at midnight. 

As the police officers filed into the office, Chief Eula stood in front of the line, holding up her ID to the shocked receptionist. 

“Chief Eula Lawrence, New Teyvat Police Department.” Eula announced. “I’m on an unwarranted arrest of Jean Gunhildr of 4NEMO.” 

“Wha--how did you get an arrest warrant that quickly?!” a high-pitched voice yelled, around the corner. Craning their heads, they saw Yoimiya and the rest of the Inazuman Innovations in their airy and light practice outfits. 

“Yoimiya, I need you to clear the halls.” Xinyan ordered. “4NEMO’s manager is under arrest for child abuse. Also, no time to get a warrant! It’s midnight!” 

“I knew she was bad in the beginning!” Kokomi whispered to Ei. 

“Sure, go ahead.” The receptionist nodded. “Jean is in her office, twenty-fifth floor.” 

“Go, go, go!” Albedo ordered the cops. 

The group of police officers raced up and down, up stairs, and up elevators. The interns, Chief Officer Eula, Albedo and Sucrose were the first to find Jean’s office, together with six other police officers for backup. Eula ordered police officers to crowd around the bottom of the building via a walkie-talkie. Eula, Albedo and Sucrose leaned on the wall to the left of the door, while the interns took the right, ensuring that if anyone opened the door from the inside, no-one would sense a thing.

“Aloy, on the count of three,” Eula ordered, grasping her gun, “Slam the door open with Barbara and Xinyan, and arrest the subject. Point guns at Jean, and Jean only. Don’t fire unless I tell you to.” 

“Yes, Chief!” the interns replied. 

“One…” 

“Two…” 

“THREE!” 

The three interns slammed the door open, police officers filling the room like water filling an empty container. The stunned members of 4NEMO froze in place. Jean’s face was painted in shock. 

“Officer Aloy Nora of the New Teyvat Police Department! You are under arrest!” 

Chapter Text

“Officer Aloy Nora of the New Teyvat Police Department! You are under arrest!” Aloy yelled. 

Jean, Aether, Venti, Kazuha and Xiao raised their hands into the air frantically. Venti dropped a whole stack of papers, so white feathery sheets drifted to the ground in a chaotic panic. It was as if the papers knew the cops were here. 

“Put your hands in the air and stand away from the teenagers!” Xinyan yelled, in her accent. “You are under arrest!”

“Don’t even think of running away! We’ve got you surrounded!” Albedo exclaimed.

“What...what is going on?” Jean managed to stutter, as soon as everything settled down. Then, she noticed a familiar face in the crowd.

Blonde, curly hair.

Eyes as blue as a twilight sky. 

“B-BARBARA PEGG! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Jean yelled, rage burning in her eyes. 

“What am I doing?” Barbara replied, coldly. “I’m delivering justice.” 

“That’s no way to treat your sister!” 

“Neither is beating her up every time something goes wrong.” Eula said. 

“But-” Jean snapped. “Barbara is a child of sin! She should be burning in the fires of hell! That’s where all children like her go!” 

“It wasn’t Barbara’s choice to be born.” Aloy defended, “A child born out of wedlock is innocent; it wasn’t their choice to be born in the first place. So you have no right to call Barbara a child of sin.” 

“Agreed!” Sucrose nodded. “Barbara is one of the best interns I’ve seen. She’s able to get the truth out of a person, and is the sweetest girl I know.” 

“In other words…” Xinyan spoke, “Barbara is our friend, and I believe she’s a child of justice!”

With that, Jean lunged towards Barbara. She took off with the speed of a tiger, a single leap forward, and she was already almost ten centimetres away from the group of cops. Though Kazuha tried to stop his manager, she still did it anyways. Only for Albedo and Sucrose to tackle her from the side, pinning her down and handcuffing her. 

“Stay down! You’re under arrest!” Sucrose ordered, cuffing the deranged manager. 

“You have the right to remain silent.” Albedo said, “Anything you say can be used against you in court!” 

“B-Barbara…” Jean whispered, looking up at her sister. In the end, what she did to her sister...the law couldn’t agree with it, leading them to this unfortunate ending. 

“May Barbatos forgive you, sister. But…”

Barbara aimed her gun, as if she was going to shoot Jean. 

“I sure won’t.” 

 

Two days later, in court, the interns, Chief Eula, and Officers Ampulla and Gold (Officer Gold is Albedo. Aloy and the interns were stunned because they never knew Albedo’s surname until they were summoned to court.) stood in defence of Barbara. Instead of Jean wearing her proper suit and tie, she was in prison wear, an orange shirt and slacks. She was also handcuffed, and seeing her being escorted into the courtroom with a pair of police officers made Barbara feel vengeful, yet sad. 

The proof was shown to the judge. Testimonies were delivered. And in the end…

“I sentence Jean Gunhildr to three months in jail, and a fine of ten million Mora!” the judge proclaimed. 

At this, Jean collapsed to the ground, livid and stunned. Aloy and Xinyan silently cheered. 

Jean tried to protest, but she was dragged away as she cursed and screamed. 

And now…

 

Back at HeadQuarters, a few days later. It was now December, and the interns were back at filing. However, they had not forgotten Ganyu’s request: to find out what happened to her parents. 

“Guys...remember what Ganyu asked us to do?” Aloy asked, peering closer to the computer screen. 

“Yeah?” Barbara asked. “What about it?” 

“I’ve tried to get access to the case for the Wuwang Hill Murder. But somehow…” Aloy paused, catching her breath. “The file’s locked.” 

“What?!” the other two interns gasped. They ran to Aloy’s desk. 

The three of them tried to unlock the file. For three hours straight. But in the end…

It was locked. 

“Dangit!” Xinyan sighed. “Should we ask Eula?” 

Aloy shook her head. “I’ve asked her. She couldn’t get access.” 

“Maybe Ganyu should hire a private investigator for this. I have no idea why she chose us, the FREAKING police.” Barbara said, crossing her arms. 

“Well, we’ve got no choice…” Aloy replied, pulling her phone out. “We’ve got to tell Ganyu about our finds.” 

 

In the end, Ganyu wasn’t mad at all. She didn’t know who locked the file and why, but she accepted it. Back in Aloy’s apartment, the three interns called up Ganyu and put themselves on speaker. 

“I guess I’d get a private investigator to get this done.” Ganyu sighed, on the other end of the line. “Thank you though, the three of you. I’m certain you did your best.” 

“No problem, Miss Sinae.” Xinyan replied, a wistful look in her sharp eyes. 

“Oh, and Aloy?” Ganyu asked. “Thank you for saving my life.” 

“Ahaha...it was nothing…” Aloy replied, “My dad’s probably turning in his grave now.” 

Ganyu paused. “Thank you, though. It’s a shame you couldn’t find the answer. But I guess some questions are better left unanswered.” 

Aloy was silent. 

“Thank you, Officer Aloy Nora. For saving my life, being a great leader for the interns, and for doing your best.” 

The call ended. 

“It’s a shame we couldn’t help her…” Barbara sighed. “So anticlimactic…” 

“Anyways,” Xinyan said, standing up. “Let’s go get some pizza! Aloy-Aloy?” 

The two other interns turned to Aloy. And she was doing something out of the blue…

She was crying. 

And for the first time, tears of happiness. 

“H-hey, what’s wrong?” Barbara stammered. 

“Nothing, nothing!” Aloy replied, frantically wiping her tears, “I-it’s just I’ve never been praised before...I’m just so touched…” 

Xinyan and Barbara looked at each other. Then, Xinyan put her hand on Aloy’s shoulder. “Aloy, from now on, we’ll stick together, and we’ll elect you as our leader!” 

“R-really?!” 

Barbara nodded. “You’re the best person I could think of to be a leader. You’re strong, brave, courageous...we trust you too.” 

“Thank you…” Aloy sobbed, throwing the two other interns in a hug. “I’ve never had true friends before…” 

“No problem.” Xinyan replied. “From now on, we’ll stick together, and we’ll fight crime together!” 

“So...let’s do a group chant! Like 4NEMO!” Barbara cheered. 

“Barbara Pegg!” 

“Xinyan Lin!” 

“Aloy Nora!” 

“Sixty-Ninth Precinct Interns! We’ll protect New Teyvat...TOGETHER!” 

 

“The three of you, I have an announcement to make.” Eula commanded, on New Year’s Eve. 

“An announcement?” Barbara asked. 

Eula nodded. “I need you to meet me in my office, on New Year’s Day, seven in the evening.” 

Aloy looked at Barbara and Xinyan. “We’ll be there, Chief!”